There are several barriers to education in Oaxaca, Mexico, including a lack of resources and funding, high poverty rates and inadequate infrastructure. Organizations are working to make quality education accessible to children in Oaxaca and improve literacy rates through reading programs.
Poverty in Oaxaca
According to World Bank data from 2020, agricultural land accounts for about 50% of Mexico’s total land area. However, in rural and typically agricultural-based areas, poverty rates are usually higher than in urban areas and educational attainment rates are low.
Furthermore, in agriculture-based southern states such as Oaxaca, one of the most impoverished states in Mexico, the costs of education are out of reach for many families as about 24% of the population lives in extreme poverty. According to Mexico’s official statistics, in 2020, only 35% of Oaxaca’s population had completed primary school education and just 18.5% had completed secondary school.
Access to education is obscured for many disadvantaged Mexicans in states such as Oaxaca. For those who are able to access education, the lack of funding in schools created inadequate environments for learning. Many early education schools in Mexico do not have access to running water, making it difficult for students to comfortably engage in learning.
The illiteracy rate within Oaxaca State varies greatly across rural and urban communities. In 2020, the illiteracy rate within Oaxaca’s largest urban city, Oaxaca City, stood at 2.37%. On the other hand, one of Oaxaca’s more rural municipalities, Santiago Yaitepec, had an illiteracy rate of 28%. In 2020, in Santiago Yaitepec, less than a quarter of the population had completed at least a middle school education and about 6% achieved a high school diploma.
Improving Literacy and Education in Oaxaca
The Ananda Learning Center is situated in San Sebastián Río Hondo, a rural village in Oaxaca with about 2,000 residents. It aims to provide a holistic and affordable private-level education to Indigenous Zapotec children from the village. The school teaches in both English and Spanish to open up more opportunities for children. The Ananda Center allows quality education for disadvantaged children and is currently fundraising to continue its operations.
A nonprofit organization named Fundacion Alfredo Harp Helu Oaxaca (FAHHO) aims to improve education and literacy among Oaxaca’s disadvantaged children. The FAHHO has established several libraries in areas of Oaxaca so that children and adolescents may access reading material to improve their literacy skills.
The FAHHO also runs mobile libraries to improve reading skills among children. A van supplied with “books, boxes, mats, shelves and easels” travels to communities and coordinators conduct reading initiatives and fun learning activities. The FAHHO established the We Keep Reading Program in 2008 and relies on the help of voluntary readers. By 2014, the initiative reached more than 6,000 children a week within 21 schools across more than five of Oaxaca’s municipalities.
The FAHHO and the Ananda Learning Center focus on improving literacy and education in Oaxaca’s most disadvantaged communities. Empowering children with education will allow them to rise out of poverty — a positive impact that will have a community-wide reach in disadvantaged areas.
– Micaela Carrillo