José Miguel, Guatemala


How José Miguel had another chance to continue his education in Guatemala

To leave no child behind, UNESCO will publish a global report on boys’ disengagement from education on 7th April. The report shows that more boys are out of school than girls today, and much needs to be done to advance the education for all. Supporting boys’ education does not mean that girls will lose out.

Meet José Miguel Tzul, an aspiring lawyer aged 28 from Totonicapán, in Guatemala. José Miguel took part in the UNESCO-Malala Centers’ Positive masculinities programme and received a scholarship to continue his education. UNESCO spoke with him about his education, challenges and aspirations.

What challenges did you face in continuing your education?

When I was young, I had to stop studying and I was not able to finish my middle school studies due to our family situation. I am the oldest of my siblings, and due to economic reasons, I had to support my parents financially to sustain our household. I made the choice to support my siblings’ education over mine as we did not have the necessary means.  But after some self-reflection, I decided I wanted to go back to school, so I signed up for the non-formal education programme from the Ministry of Education and I got my middle school degree after two years.

What was your experience with the UNESCO-Malala Centres? What did you learn?

After I got my middle-school degree, I was able to obtain a scholarship through the UNESCO-Malala Centers, thanks to Sandra, a programme promoter from San Andres Xecul.

I got a lot of support to continue my studies from the Centres. I received a tablet and textbooks to follow my classes – this was extremely important to obtain my high school degree. I was able to familiarize myself with digital tools and with the self-learning process, especially during the COVID-19 school closures.

What was your biggest challenge to learning?

During COVID-19 school closures, I could not meet my classmates at school and exchange with them. I also had to ensure I was able to pay for internet on the days I had class online. This was challenging but thanks to the scholarship I received, I got an electronic tablet that made it possible to log in to my classes, do research and access all of the materials to study. I obtained my high school degree with a specialization in accounting and administration.

You are active in your community. How have the Centres helped you lead your peers?

I participated in workshops offered by the Centers, and the training provided has helped me a lot to become a leader in my community. I am currently serving my community. Through the positive masculinities workshops, I was able to reflect how we as men discriminate women and how these processes take place in our communities. These workshops helped us to broaden our minds and realize that everybody is important in a society and that we all have the same value.

We must share the knowledge we received from the workshops with our family members, and our brothers to break the paradigms of our society and build a world in which we are all the same.

What are your hopes for your education and your future? 

I want to continue my university education and become a lawyer, which is my passion. I’d like to help people in need and get involved in youth groups, so I can support them to achieve their dreams. I want to share my experience and knowledge to help them pursue their dreams. It is never too late to achieve our goals in life.

What would you like to say to young people about their education?

Continue your education, even if you are going through difficult times. Education is very important and opens doors. Look for Centers or programmes that can support you in achieving your dreams, so we can collaborate in our societies and help our communities and those in need.

The UNESCO-Malala Centers were established in Guatemala from 2018-2021 to strengthen policies for the educational equality of women at national level, and to support the education of girls, adolescents, and indigenous women in the western highlands of Guatemala. As part of this work, a programme on “Positive masculinities” benefitted 50 indigenous young men helping them to continue their education. While the project mainly focused on empowering indigenous women and their educational reinsertion, it also created opportunities for young men, like José Miguel, to continue their studies.