Vocational Boarding School

Reality of rural education in Guatemala

  • 75% of indigenous Guatemalans live in poverty
  • 10% of indigenous children are child laborers by age 10
  • On average, indigenous girls drop out after 1st grade and boys after 3rd
  • 19% of men and 27% women are illiterate
  • Only 5% of indigenous girls finish high school

Source: UNDP

Our Rural, Vocational Boarding School

Ak’ Tenamit’s rural, secondary boarding school includes a middle school and three-year vocational high school and is nationally and internationally recognized for its innovative program. Our curriculum is adapted to the needs, interests, and culture of students learning in a rural context, and we complement classroom learning with practical work experience. Together, our curriculum and work-study programs prepare students to succeed in today’s job market and enable our students to make headway towards reducing poverty in their communities. Graduates represent a new generation of indigenous youth who think critically, are computer literate, bilingual, trained in practical skills, and committed to preserving their culture.

We began with 6 students and have since grown to over 500, with 500 more on a waiting list. The ratio of girls to boys continues to equalize as more families understand the value of educating their daughters.

Classroom Learning

Nationally recognized degree programs
We offer 3-year degree programs in Sustainable Tourism and Rural Community Development. These programs not only prepare students for local job markets but to respond to their communities’ needs and create solutions.

Rural appropriate
Ak’ Tenamit adapted Guatemala’s national curriculum so that courses respond to the realities students face in their rural communities and prepares them to be leaders. Sample courses include organic farming techniques, project management, environmental protection, and human rights.

Cultural awareness
Students learn about Mayan history, language and culture as part of our mission to preserve a culture that is quickly disappearing.

Bilingual instruction
Courses are taught in Spanish and students’ native Q’eqchi’ Mayan, and English classes are required. In addition to English, many students also learn Spanish at Ak’ Tenamit because they only speak Q’eqchi when they enroll.

Practical Classroom

In the field
Students earn 3,000 hours of on-the-job experience through our work-study program. They complete short internships throughout their schooling and they experience the world of tourism and community development first hand through internships in restaurants, hotels or as tour guides, in nonprofit organizations, and in Ak’ Tenamit’s various departments.

Student Life

The majority of students live in the on-site dormitories because their families do not live close enough to allow them to live at home; those who live close enough may travel over one hour each day in canoe or on foot just to get to the school.

Students learn to appreciate and take responsibility for their education by performing much of the work needed to keep their school running – growing their food, maintaining buildings, performing clerical work and more. They dedicate three weeks of manual labor before each school year and at least 15 hours each week during the school year.

Each student receives a scholarship for 80% of his/her tuition and boarding fees. These scholarships are made possible through our Student Sponsorship program, which allows donors to sponsor a student for only $1/day.

No student is turned away because they are unable to pay the balance of their fees. If they cannot pay they can contribute by:

  • provide an equivalent quantity of corn, which is used to make the tortillas served during the students’ lunch
  • work extra shifts in the school’s work-study program

$1/ day determines whether a student will graduate or return to a life of poverty.