With transatlantic support, new school opens in Jocotenango
Built with an outpouring of support from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, a modern new school has just opened for over 500 Guatemalan children, many of whom might not get an education otherwise.
Located in Jocotenango, just three kilometers from La Antigua, the spacious Escuela Proyecto La Esperanza has 20 classrooms, a computer lab, an audio-visual room, library, kitchen, psychology room and more. It also has access to playing fields and green space, thanks to the generosity of Finca La Azotea, which donated most of the 3,000 square meters of land on which the new school stands.
“This is a very special day,” British Ambassador to Guatemala Julie Chappell told an assembly of children, parents, teachers and supporters seated in the broad courtyard on Monday, Jan. 17.
The bright, airy learning center is the centerpiece project of the Nottingham-based Education for the Children Foundation, whose chairman, David McKee, fought back tears as he addressed the audience.
“We have a beautiful building – but it’s just a building,” he said. “A school needs children who want to work hard and study. A school needs teachers with abilities but who also understand the problems of the people of Jocotenango.
“A school needs leaders with vision. But most of all a school needs a heart and a soul. La Esperanza has those qualities that make it a school,” he said.
The top three learning priorities will be computer skills, English and extra-curricular activities, be they sports, arts or community service, McKee added. “With education, all things are possible.”
French architect Pierre Turlin, who worked at greatly reduced rates, was cited for working closely with materials supplier El Mastil to keep construction costs down (approximately Q3,440,000). El Mastil also discounted prices as its contribution to the project, McKee added.
Another of EFTC’s top benefactors locally, Ricardo Pokorny and Katie Cunningham of Finca La Azotea, provided a 75% discount on land costs and allowed the foundation to repay the balance over 15 years. Children can go out the back door, through rows of coffee plants, and enjoy sports on a wide playing field, among other educational features at the farm.
Not only are children of Azotea employees enrolled at the 2,000-square-meter school, it also plays a pivotal role in improving the future of the community, Pokorny explained.
“If education improves in Jocotenango, I improve, Azotea improves, tourism improves,” he said. “It reduces violence … the whole town improves and reduces its sleeper community characteristics.”
The school replaces a smaller, cramped center where children didn’t have the opportunity to play on green grass. La Esperanza also has capacity for 125 more children than the old location, which EFTC had been renting since 2008.
“This school has space to think and study – but also to play, to have access to real grass. The old school didn’t have space to play,” Ambassador Chappell said. “This is one dream fulfilled — and we’re waiting to hear what the next dreams are, and we’re here to support them.”
To donate or for more information, visit www.eftc.org.uk.