While Latin America has made remarkable progress in making education accessible for all over the last decade, not many youth are actually graduating high school, and even fewer going on to receive advanced degrees. It is estimated that between now and 2040 nearly 40 percent of the Latin American workforce will lack a high school degree.
This significant dropout rate is costly, and prevents Latin America from reaching both their entrepreneurial and economic potential. Due to these statistics, Partners recently implemented a new program in Honduras called A Ganar Escuela, which aims to encourage children to stay and school and pursue higher education.
A Ganar Escuela is based on Partners’ traditional A Ganar program, which uses sport to teach youth ages 16-24 vocational skills to improve their employability. Unlike the traditional program, A Ganar Escuela focuses on a younger age group. By targeting children ages ten to 14, A Ganar Escuela hopes to decrease the school dropout rate and increase the participation of youth in formal education.
In 2015 A Ganar received the Barclays Sport for Employability Award from Beyond Sport. Partners invested the totality of the award funds to implement A Ganar Escuela in Honduras, a country that is greatly affected by this education crisis.
According to a 2014 report, 45 percent of students in Honduras drop out of school after reaching the sixth grade. School enrollment rates continue to decrease dramatically after the sixth grade. Of the 55 percent entering the seventh grade, only 28 percent go on to enroll in ninth and tenth grade. Furthermore, merely 17 percent of youth who completed secondary education will enroll at a university.
Launched in April 2016, the program is working with 71 youth across two schools - Centro de Educacion Basica “Primero de Febrero” in San Pedro Sula and Escuela Republica de Japon in Choloma - areas known for high violence and crime rates in Northern Honduras.
Like the traditional program, A Ganar Escuela maintains a focus on six core skills: communication, teamwork, discipline, respect, focus on results, and continual self-improvement. However, instead of using these skills to make participating youth more employable, these skills are now being used to make them better students.
Partners recognizes that it is not effective to only engage with the student, as the decision for a youth to withdraw from school is often a family one tied to the harsh realities of their community. Although there are many reasons for the high dropout rates in Latin America, up to 23 percent of students drop out of school so that they can work and support their families, according to a report by SITEAL.
Therefore a unique aspect of A Ganar Escuela is that its facilitators collaborate not only with the student and the school, but with the student’s family, as well. By engaging in sessions with parents, A Ganar Escuela provides families with the knowledge and tools necessary to become advocates for improving their children's educational development.
The children A Ganar Escuela already seem to be enjoying their experience and becoming better students because of the program.
"Before being a part of this group I was a more aggressive person that would respond negatively to people,” Britney, a 13-year-old participant in the program, said. “A Ganar Escuela has taught me self-control. Now if anyone does something to me, I just say ‘no’ and turn around.” Britney said that A Ganar Escuela equipped her skills that have made her both a better student and person.
Eleven-year-old Estafany participant hopes to become a doctor someday. When asked what advice she would give to her peers after working with A Ganar Escuela she said, “I would tell my classmates to keep studying, so that when we become older we can become professionals.”
There is still much work to be done in conjunction with schools to maximize their infrastructure and opportunities. A Ganar Escuela uses sport in hopes to reengage children and youth to be excited and committed to learning. By giving children the means to become better students, they feel more comfortable and motivated to stay in school.