Education Journey: From Hope Toward Reality

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A community library in La Esperanza, El Salvador, provides means for remote learning.

Since schools went into virtual learning a year ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, public education in El Salvador has gotten very expensive. “Education has become privatized,” our parish priest, Father Luis Coto, said at the beginning of this school year, which started February 1.

People pay internet companies $10 to $15 a month so their kids can navigate online. Depending on how many kids you have, it can be even more expensive. Most people in our community of La Esperanza earn $5 a day–if they’re lucky.

As a result of these difficulties, some kids had to drop out of classes last year. However, this year our library has a free internet signal for the community, which has been very well received and used. “Besides the economic situation, teachers send me homework on my cell phone, but I don’t understand the directions,” says Daisy, a mother of two. “To have the older youth in the library helping my children is such a relief.” 

The impact of this resource on the community has been clear. One father, Agustin, says, “To have computers and a copy machine in the community library is a huge consolation for a parent.”

“When my 12-year-old son walks into town, I worry,” he says of the half-hour trek into town to get internet access. “That road is narrow, and cars fly down it. It’s dangerous.”

At our community library, we made 500 photocopies and logged dozens of hours of internet use only two weeks into the new school year.

Jonathan, a salvadoran high school student who wants to become a doctor, studies at La Esperanza community library. (Courtesy of MKLM/El Salvador)

Jonathan, a salvadoran high school student who wants to become a doctor, studies at La Esperanza community library. (Courtesy of MKLM/El Salvador)

Two of our young people, Luis Miguel and Jonathan, are in charge of the computer lab. They are also busy teaching kids how to use computers and helping them with their homework.

Luis Miguel, who has a technical degree in computer systems and wants to study to become a system engineer, says, “Computers fascinate me. Maintenance, keeping them clean, and learning more about them is exciting, but what I like most is helping kids and teaching others how to use computers.” 

 Jonathan, who is in his second year of high school, wants to be a doctor. “To have a quiet, neat place to study is a joy,” he told me one day. “The library is like a big desk and to know I have a place there gives me a sense of belonging and helping. It’s special.” Jonathan also helps kids with their homework.

Luis Miguel helping Jefferson with homework (Courtesy of MKLM/El Salvador)

Luis Miguel helping Jefferson with homework at the community library in El Salvador. (Courtesy of MKLM/El Salvador)

To be a system engineer or a doctor may sound like a reasonable expectation for a young person, but for youth in El Salvador, it’s like dreaming of a trip to Mars. The national university is saturated with thousands of applications each year, and most kids will be turned away. There simply is not enough capacity in the national system to receive the demand. Few people from La Esperanza can afford a private university education, which would cost approximately $5,000 for five years of study (equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in the United States).

Yet, we are helping kids like Luis Miguel and Jonathan see with new eyes. We encourage them to make their dreams come true, thanks to our COVID relief fund and scholarship program. Now a few more young people will be able to make that amazing journey.

Featured image: Luis Miguel, working on the computer, helps Anthony (with glasses) and Anderson (standing) at La Esperanza community library. (Rick Dixon/El Salvador)

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Richard Dixon

Rick Dixon, from Orange, Calif., is a Maryknoll lay missioner whose ministry takes place in a squatter settlement that dates back to the El Salvador civil war.