Education in values, in citizenship and in peace culture, ways to eradicate violence
One of the most important problems in Guatemala is violence and insecurity. Together with El Salvador and Honduras, they make up the most violent triangle of Latin America, according to the U.N. There are strong ties between the "maras" and the drug traffic. This, together with a weak state, makes it difficult to create citizens capable of participation ad change. "If we add to this the poverty of these countries and corruption, it explains why progress is so slow. We consider that education, not only in capacities but also in values and citizenship is important. And this is what we try to do at Fe y Alegría", explains Miquel Cortés sj, Guatemala Fe y Alegría Director.
Guatemala had a civil war during 16 years with 200.000 dead and wounded, which has marked the country. The "maras" also play an important role. They were born in Los Angeles, U.S.A., with Central American immigrants. They have been active for over 20 years as stable organizations with code members. These "maras" in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala control territories. The groups survive threatening and stealing and many of them are minors, in order to have lighter penalties. There is also a de -structuring of families since there is a strong emigration to the US. In Guatemala there are a million and a half immigrants for 14 million inhabitants. This means that many do not have their parents near. Fe y Alegría Guatemala has carried out a study of the schools in the c country and 13% of the students have one of the parents in the U.S. Miquel Cortés explains: " This is why we have to do something, we have to encourage social change, this is the challenge and we have to do so by education, starting with psychosocial programmes".
"The Fe y Alegría education centers' live very closely the problem of the "maras", since brothers uncles or cousins are implicated because the "mara" is not only one person, it is the family to which it belongs. And many of them are at our schools. We work on "Peace Culture" through several programmes ",explains the director. The first one is "Open schools ", which means to open schools on Saturdays, Sundays and during the week at after school hours, in order to understand school not only as a learning place but also as a school for values. The centre is open for leisure, cultural and sport activities with breakfast and lunch. The second programme is " Safe schools " which seeks that the education and neighbour's communities guarantee that the schools may be safe places. For this purpose parents organizations are encouraged in Fe y Alegría schools, within a legal framework and with management participation. And safe schools regarding public infrastructures and public lighting in the streets near the schools. The third programme is called "Young house ", dedicated to personal or group therapy for the maras and their families. The access to "mara" is difficult, but it is easy to the mother or the brother of the mara member "These are the three special programmes for the work of Culture and Peace to which we have to add all the education in values to make our schools, schools for life" ends Miquel Cortés.
In Puente Belice Entreculturas also supports a programme for youth who live in communities where the "maras" are active. The success of the work lies in uniting formation with work. This is proving to be very effective, specially for prevention. They have built a new prevention centre, at a distance from the heart of the city, where the students have to arrive by bus and this is good because they are forced to get away from their violent surroundings. They work half day and study the other half and many of them finish their basic education which they had abandoned. This project is very much applicable to other areas.
Didactic Materials to work on the Peace and Non Violence school Day
At Entreculturas we believe that the Peace and Non Violence School Day is a very good opportunity to continue working for a fairer model. Because peace implies a fairer society and education is a privileged tool with which to reach this goal.
As you know, at Entreculturas we work on specific materials on "D Days" to raise awareness on issues such as gender, solidarity, intercultural issues, children´s rights, etc.
On this occasion of the Non Violence ad Peace Day we have worked on different activities for each education cycle: infant school, primary and secondary. For the little ones we work on dialogue and respect as an answer to violence and for the older ones we work on the situation of Haiti and the difficulties of having a life with peace and dignity.