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New digs for the Middle school
Middle school students now attend classes in re-modeled buildings nearby the computer center. One of the buildings is the former office for the leadership group that consists of high school and college-educated “professionals” (this group was formerly known as AESMAC, recently renamed to Kemb’al No’j ). The other building was the former village library, which has been replaced by the newly opened facility just off the village center. The buildings do not have the open-to-air ventilation typical of schools in this region of the world, but clever use of ceiling fans allows classroom climate to stay bearable on hot days. The buildings have new roofs and are festively painted turquoise. A nice added touch is a thatch-roof gazebo where students can gather between classes.
This move has meant the middle school students no longer share classrooms with the primary (grade 1-6) students and can start their academic day earlier. It’s a short walk to other teaching facilities such as the computer center, and the marimba building.
A committee of village leaders continues to seek the re-development of the property for a vastly upgraded middle school complex. There are a number of challenges to this endeavor, and substantial outside funding will be needed.
Does your family have a relative studying in 7 to 9 grade? How has this changed things for them?
Village challenges in recent years
We’d like to believe all endeavors of the village are done in harmony and transparency. But the realities in SMT are not unlike other emerging societies. Over the past years, land for farming has been taken up and subdivided within families. There is not enough territory to meet today’s land demand. Several families who have been unable to possess ample parcela land have established growing plots on publicly-appointed conservation forest at various village locales. This has led to contentions because many villagers believe such conservation forests must continue to be unexploited. While avoiding an over-confrontational posture, village leaders have had to enlist the local government authorities to help protect the lands. There are no easy answers to the dilemma. Does your family wish they had more land?
Aside from the land issues, some leadership integrity problems in several village committees have come into the open. These committees were using reserves to make loans, an activity that was represented to the village as widely beneficial. After several years, full accounting of such reserves became increasingly elusive. The village council, respecting that these monies come from donations, commissioned audits to the extent possible within each impacted committee. The August delegation leaders were given forthright explanations by current village leaders of where abuses happened, and were impressed by the determination to recover misused funds. The practice of loaning by committees was brought to an abrupt halt at the start of 2016.
Saving and Loan Institution
The village has its first formal financial institution for making loans to villagers, one that is sanctioned by applicable regulatory bodies to establish accounts, take deposits and extend capital to individuals. As a remote indigenous community, the cost of borrowing has historically been prohibitive. That may vastly change now.
Other things to ask about
What is the village like geographically?
Many families now live near a road. Does yours? Are there street lights? Are more and more villagers using motorized transportation? Do they live far from the village center?
How many languages are spoken in the village? How many in the household?
Has anything changed with the new leadership in Guatemala (Pres Morales) ?