The Asociación de Servicios Educativos y Culturales, DW Akademie's partner in Guatemala, is a pioneer in integrating Media and Information Literacy books into school curricula.
"My main support is my teacher Diana, she always tells us that whoever wants to, and makes an effort, will succeed," says Yudary Anahí Raxón Guerra. The 17-year old is among more than 12,000 young Guatemalans who receives training through the Guatemalan Institute of Radio Education, or Instituto Guatemalteco de Educación Radiofónica (IGER).
When the pandemic hit, Raxón stopped her formal studies for two years. "We had to study virtually," she said. "It was very bad for me: I didn't understand any of the assignments and I didn't receive any support."
But a year ago, Raxón entered one of IGER's study circles. She now studies in Aldea La Comunidad Mixco, a neighborhood near Guatemala City, a half-hour commute from her home. She lives with her five siblings and her mother in an area marred by violence.
IGER, a non-profit institution created by the Association of Educational and Cultural Services (Asociación de Servicios Educativos y Culturales, ASEC), is DW Akademie's partner organization offering formal education to young people with limited economic resources and in areas where official public education is scant. This system, which includes distance learning tools via radio and the Internet and face-to-face study circles led by volunteer teachers, is recognized by the Ministry of Education so that students like Raxón can obtain official diplomas after each study cycle.
Raxón learned of the IGER study circle from her sister, who also studied there.
In 2021, with DW Akademie's support, IGER launched a Media and Information Literacy (MIL) educational program: a book series aimed at developing young people's media skills so that they learn to comprehend and apply information, as well as to create their own media messages critically.
"With the MIL books," says Raxón enthusiastically, "not only have I learned, but I've taught my little brothers and sisters, and even my mom."
In Guatemala, there is no clear political or educational agenda for Media and Information Literacy. IGER's MIL books are Guatemala's first formal educational initiative in this field and are a fundamental tool for young people in disadvantaged areas.
"Our area is a very dangerous place, where children are constantly persecuted by gangs and cannot access safe public education," explains Diana González, Raxón's counselor and teacher. "In addition, we live in an age where technology absorbs us and unfortunately parents are not used to it and the only way they know how to answer this is to say 'put the phone down'," she adds.
This is why González, like many other volunteer teachers, invests her efforts every weekend into joining the young people who attend the study circles.
The MIL books' content includes media operation and the technical know-how to create audio, photo and video messages; information analysis; and digital security. In addition, the series features multimedia resources available from any device with an Internet connection. Their accessibility makes them suitable for any level and appealing to the whole family.
"My younger siblings grab my mother's phone a lot and watch videos," Raxón explains. "With what I learn in books, I teach them that they can't trust just anyone on a social network like Facebook, because there are people who are only looking to hurt you."
The study circles are very diverse, according to local resources, but they all count on the enthusiasm of teachers and students
"But mostly it helped me with my mom," Raxon adds. The young girl recounts how her mother, very much on the phone for work, began to take an interest in what she was studying after discovering the MIL book. "It was the first time she helped me with my homework and, since then, the change has been radical. Now, when she comes home from work she sometimes puts down the phone and sits with me; she especially likes that we read the MIL book, it's what catches her attention the most."
This project is suported by the German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development (BMZ).