Local NGO strives to improve reading levels of youth in rural communities

By Sara Tylosky

Mexico has one of the lowest reading levels in the world. According to a recent UNESCO study about reading habits, Mexico ranked last out of 108 countries. Other studies show that Mexicans only read an average of three books a year due to low education levels and poverty.

One local nonprofit organization is working in rural communities outside of San Miguel de Allende to provide a space between home and school where kids can learn critical life skills – including literacy. The Rural Education Institute of Mexico, Inc. was founded in 2007 when a group of volunteers began providing educational programming in the rural community of Jalpa, located about 20 kilometers outside San Miguel.

The program was first introduced in Jalpa since the Mexican government identified Jalpa as a local community in need of support. In Jalpa, there is no landline or cellular phone service, poor potable water, and transportation to and from the community is infrequent and expensive. There are also high dropout rates among local children, and community members identified educational programming as an important need in the community.

In Jalpa, the Rural Education Institute created a children’s library and provided programming in English, reading, art, drama, sports and cooperative games for elementary school students. These educational programs aim to build important life skills such as teamwork, motivation and cooperation, as well as to encourage children to continue with their education. Learning activities are centered on seven Pillars of Learning: communication, literacy, life skills, motivation, leadership, creativity and teamwork. The Rural Education Institute believes that these skills are essential for future success in both education and employment.

A key reason for the organization’s success is that recent graduates from universities all over the world come to San Miguel Allende to implement the program. Interns have come from Bolivia, Canada, United States and European countries to serve in San Miguel. The majority of interns have completed their undergraduate degrees, and some have their Master’s or are in the process of acquiring an advanced degree.

To decrease the dropout rate, the Rural Education Institute began to provide high school scholarships in 2010 for students wishing to continue their education. Three students just graduated ‘prepa’ (high school) in 2012 through this outreach.

In 2010, the Rural Education Institute was also invited by the community of La Palma to introduce programming in the local community center. Over the past year, the Institute has installed a computer lab in La Palma and introduced programming for middle school students to support the education of local children all the way to high school.

The Rural Education Institute is currently providing educational programs for students in elementary and middle school in both La Palma and Jalpa. This year the elementary students are reading Charlotte’s Web in Spanish and middle school students are reading Cajas de Carton – a short autobiographical work about a child whose parents are migrant workers in the United States.

The goal of the Rural Education Institute of Mexico is to increase the number of rural communities with access to educational opportunities. In order to accomplish this goal, the agency plans to expand its programs to rural communities throughout the state of Guanajuato.

The Rural Education Institute believes in the power of education and maintains that creating the opportunity for additional education is the best way to ensure future success for children in Mexico.

If you are interested in learning more about this organization please contact us at info@ruralmex.org or visit www.ruralmex.org. Look for future information about our Day of the Dead fundraiser in La Palma’s community center on October 31.


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