SPECIAL EFFORT FOR CHILDREN IN BIG FALLS AND SAN ANTONIO VILLAGES IN THE TOLEDO HILLS
by Ray Auxillou
There are over 26 communities in the Toledo Hills, plus many scattered farms and groups. Most families work milpa and jungle as their subsistence living and trade. Boys in particular often leave school early, before age 14 years, to work with the adults in the aspects of survival on a subsistence basis from jungle living.
The International Labor Organization has done a small project to change things for these working children in these TWO villages, more easily accessible by the main southern highway, instigated by the National Committee for Families and Children. About 5000 underage children are employed by parents, in subsistence agriculture nationwide, to feed the family. There is a debate about whether this lifestyle and apprenticeship can be regarded as education? Especially with the changing dynamics of modernization and world competition.
Forty nine children in these TWO villages out of twenty six villages in this area, age ten to seventeen years of age, were encouraged to keep attending school. Funds were found to support their books, uniforms, school fees and extra tutoring services. In a cash poor living environment, advanced schooling is prohibitive for jungle communities. Most children are considered adults at age fourteen years, at the end of mandatory school leaving age. Thirty eight children were placed in schools and eleven children have gone to ITVET community based vocational programs. Most of the thirty eight children are now in second form high school. The other eleven children following the vocational training path are finished. There are still 24 communities and myriad scattered small family groups living throughout the jungle clad foothills of the Maya Mountains untouched by this program.