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Girl-Centered Remote Learning in Rural Guatemala: Projecting Empowered Voices into the World

Redefining education and expectations for girls in rural Guatemala using technology for remote learning and projecting their empowered voice

Photo of Jenny Dale
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Tell us about your idea

MAIA is redefining education—and expectations—in rural Guatemala. For too long, the assumption has been that the rural Maya Guatemalan environment is too difficult and remote for innovation and that there is no talent in this context. As ground zero for innovation for girls’ education in Guatemala, MAIA is compelling the world to revisit this false assumption. MAIA’s school design is propelling girls to unprecedented academic heights. The whole-girl approach achieves success with families, not in spite of them. For the first time, Guatemala can see talent in a region once considered barren. What is most compelling is that this reframe is catalyzed by MAIA’s team of indigenous women.

MAIA’s education model during this pandemic is a girl-centered response—Young indigenous women in rural communities in Guatemala have access to technology for remote learning, stay connected to their educators, mentors, and peers with internet access, and use their empowered voices to share their experiences with the broader community and world. Now is a crucial time for Girl Pioneers to exercise their resilience and leadership to reimagine what education can be for girls in rural Guatemala.

Maintain academic momentum and link with families through technology—Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are closed indefinitely. In times of crisis, girls are at risk of taking the place of caretakers, having to quit school. MAIA has built relationships of trust with families and community leaders, which has laid a foundation for families continuing to prioritize girls’ education during this pandemic. MAIA is pivoting towards improving Girl Pioneers’ access to technology to continue their education remotely (currently only 11% have access to smartphones). MAIA is currently piloting the use of tablets with internet, enabling girls to have access to online resources and stay in better communication with other Girl Pioneers and their educators and mentors. In addition, all students receive scheduled phone check-ins with educators and mentors to ensure students continue to work towards their academic and socioemotional goals. MAIA educators are also receiving weekly professional development sessions on how to adapt their teaching styles to this new, complex reality of remote instruction via video group sessions, individual phone calls, and preparing independent student-led school work.

Voice into the World—Cut off from the world, how can the situation in rural villages be known? Access to technology will provide Girl Pioneers with the ability to use their empowered voices by sharing their own stories—photos, video, and voice recordings—via social media, radio, and podcasts. Girl Pioneers will also receive coaching to become advocates and journalists for their villages, so they can report the realities of rural villages to MAIA’s community as well as national and international media outlets.

Blog - A Day in the Life of Girl Pioneers in Quarantine 

Podcast - MAIA’s Voice to the Times of Coronavirus

Video - Education in Times of Coronavirus:

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Guatemala has the worst gender equity gap in the hemisphere, with only 10% of Maya women completing high school. The COVID crisis has revealed unique opportunities to reimagine what education for indigenous girls in Guatemala can look like moving forward. MAIA has always envisioned Girl Pioneers with access to the tools, skills, and opportunities to lead change in their communities, defying the insidious notion that perceives Maya girls in poverty as “the problem,” and instead casting them appropriately as “the solution.” The onset of this pandemic lays bare the enormous information gaps between rural Maya villages and the rest of Guatemala. With indefinite and rigid travel restrictions in place, rural villages are more cut off than ever. Through the use of technology and an innovative team of local educators and mentors, Girl Pioneers can access a quality education that is no longer confined to a physical classroom.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

MAIA's wholehearted belief in the "Girl Effect" has equipped hundreds of Girl Pioneers (students at the MAIA Impact School) and staff in over 100 remote communities in Guatemala with the knowledge and know-how to lead and educate during this pandemic. MAIA has an abundance mindset—we proactively collaborate and partner with organizations and schools. We want to share our experiences so that together we can create a community of learning that addresses the world’s challenges to education for the most vulnerable populations. 

A quote often attributed to Nicolas Kristof: “Talent is universal. Opportunity is not.” MAIA is continually inspired by the growing body of global evidence that corroborates our organizational experience. When talented girls access the right opportunity, a powerful connection is made that ripples out positive benefits in infinite ways. MAIA is a manifestation of the “Girl Effect” for all of Guatemala. 

What region are you located in?

  • Latin America and the Caribbean

Where are you located?

Sololá, Guatemala MAIA works with “Girl Pioneers.” These are girls born into situations of quadruple discrimination⏤poor, female, rural, and indigenous⏤who are pursuing their secondary school education (grade 7-12) in the MAIA Impact School and their families, representing over 40 rural highland villages in the department of Sololá, Guatemala. Sololá is 98% Maya and has the second-highest level of poverty in the country (80%).


Join the conversation:

Photo of Chabi  Agarwal

Hi Jenny,

Its a lovely initiate, really well thought through. I would like to know what is the content that is accessible to these girls for learning. Are you following any particular syllabus or curriculum. Have you tied up any school or university for their curriculum. What are the skills and capabilties that you are looking into developing.

Photo of Jenny Dale

Hi Chabi,

Thank you so much for your comment. Girl Pioneers are students at the MAIA Impact School, a secondary school created to maximize the potential of Maya girls by providing a high-quality education while supporting holistic socioemotional development and celebrating culture. The Impact School's curriculum integrates the United States Common Core standards with the Guatemala National Curriculum learning indicators and is aligned with the competencies necessary to pass the San Carlos University (USAC) entrance exam (Guatemala’s public and free university system). The most unique component of MAIA’s curriculum is that it combines these three components and then contextualizes it to the experiences of indigenous rural communities. The curriculum looks to develop these core competencies: critical thinking, excellence, resilience, growth mindset, vocal empowerment, cross-cultural code-switching, and negotiation to prepare Girl Pioneers for 21st-century opportunities. MAIA partners with dozens of national and international experts to introduce dynamic best practices into the Impact School. MAIA educator receive weekly professional development and coaching sessions to support them in the shift to virtual instruction and they adapt and evaluate their lesson plans based on student progress and feedback.

The pivot during the pandemic to remote online learning includes content created by MAIA educators and includes applications such as Khan Academy and Duolingo, to name a few.

You can read more about the MAIA Impact School here:

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