Investing in higher education so young people can pursue their dreams
In El Salvador, more than one in four young people aged 15 to 24 are neither working nor studying. Without a worthy purpose each day, youth are vulnerable to the influences of crime, violence and addiction. In fact, the pandemic has heightened the violation of children’s rights in El Salvador, with sharp increases in sexual, psychological and physical abuse.
Six in ten Salvadorans are under the age of 30. And yet, systemic neglect of young people’s most basic needs—including education and job opportunities—means that 51 out of every 100 people between the ages of 25 and 59 are unemployed. Without access to academic degrees and stable jobs, it’s impossible for this generation of adolescents to overcome the deeply rooted barriers established by poverty.
Education is foundational to overcoming poverty and societal exclusion; reducing violence, abuse and risky criminal behaviour; and bolstering good citizenship, families and economies. A university education is the gateway to social advancement and a bright future of opportunities for young people. There is a stark contrast between those who graduate from university and those who don’t—in competing in the labour market, salaries and career advancement. The benefits of higher education are clear—but the barriers still remain.
Since enrollment and course fees exceed the economic capacity for most families living in poverty, many ambitious young people are forced see their dreams truncated by a lack of financial resources. Our church partners in El Salvador have tried to seek scholarships for promising Compassion-assisted youth, but the demand for scholarships is high and so far, they have been unsuccessful. Compassion staff knew that with the opportunity to pursue university education, these students could launch into the exciting stage of adulthood with confidence, life skills and relevant experience, instead of a life of unskilled, casual labour—or worse, unemployment or crime.
With your generous support, 15 promising young men and women in El Salvador are pursuing higher education at university in a field of their choice. Your gift is helping cover their academic fees, including tuition, textbooks, exam fees and technology. Now that COVID-19 restrictions have relaxed, local Compassion centre directors and tutors are meeting regularly with students in person to listen and pray with them, encourage them and monitor their academic progress. Parents and caregivers of students attend monthly family meetings or connect with staff over the phone, covering topics like sexual education, child protection, preventing teen pregnancy and the importance of parental support and counsel.
At the time of our last report, all 15 students initially selected for this intervention had successfully completed their first three semesters of study. Unfortunately, during the following semester, one of the beneficiaries became pregnant. Despite repeated efforts by the local pastor and centre staff to motivate her to continue her studies, the young woman decided to drop out. Sadly, early pregnancy is common in El Salvador, and derails many girls from completing their education. In fact, a 2015 study by the UN population fund reports that as many of 30 per cent of all pregnancies in El Salvador are among girls between the ages of 10 and 19. This has been a difficult and disappointing situation; however, the local church has been able to select a bright and highly motivated young man to fill the empty spot. He has commenced his studies and plans to graduate at the same time as the other students.
Most students continue to learn virtually, while some attend classes in person depending on their field of study. Despite the challenges of online learning during the pandemic, students continue to progress well in their studies, with some achieving outstanding grades. Three of the young people are already members of staff at their local Compassion centres, putting their new skills to practice by tutoring, discipling and mentoring others. At the time of this report, all students have successfully completed their first semester of their third year; 10 students plan to graduate at the end of this year with the remaining five to follow in 2023.
Compassion is committed to ensuring that students have the emotional, practical and spiritual support they need to succeed. This year, churches are working with a Compassion Youth Specialist to provide students with additional support and monitoring, and to facilitate more communication between students and their parents.
Giving back: Cristian, who is studying to obtain a bachelor’s degree in English, offered tutoring for grades 8 and 9 youth in a school in his community. Isaura, who is studying to be a mathematics teacher, gave math tutorials to younger students. Merary participated in a virtual exhibition with other students from her medical program, giving an inspiring message to her classmates.
Online learning: William was grateful to receive a tablet to help him complete his final year of studies. Ana continues to use the cell phone she was provided with to attend virtual classes as she works towards her teaching degree. Helen, who is studying education, received a laptop so she can continue her studies online.
Internships: Isaura is completing an internship in a school as a mathematics teacher. Ana is teaching first-grade children as part of her internship to become an elementary school teacher.
Your Gift Provides...
Higher education fees for 15 students, including:
• Vocational orientation
• Admission fees
• Course fees
• Exam fees
• Student insurance
• Textbooks, tools and equipment
• Technology and Internet
• Graduation expenses
ReportThank you for your generosity
For students growing up in poverty, the barriers to education are not merely financial but also include cultural obstacles and generational patterns that can easily derail them from pursuing higher goals. Students who lack the support and encouragement of their caregivers are far more susceptible to the cyclical patterns of behaviour that keep them chained down in poverty. Thanks to your support, these 15 young men and women now have the chance to break free from poverty as they move towards a good, stable career and benefit from the mentorship and support of loving Christian leaders. With your help, they can become mature men and women who bring a halt to generational cycles of poverty and abuse, and influence and inspire others around them for good.
Here are stories of some of the students you are helping.
Isaura, studying to be a mathematics teacher, excelled during her second year of university. Despite achieving top grades, this hasn’t been an easy year for Isaura; she struggled with managing stress, especially during the pandemic. However, as difficult as the experience was, Isaura can now thank God for giving her the strength to keep going. “University is difficult,” she shares honestly. “I even got sick because of the stress it caused me. Also, being in the middle of a pandemic everything is more complicated. But thank God I got over it, and I was able to see once again the hand of God at work in my life.” This year, Isaura is participating in an internship and sees a brighter future approaching as she moves step by step towards graduation. “Being part of a scholarship opportunity like the one Compassion gave me is more than a blessing, it is a dream come true. Being aware of the importance of this opportunity motivates me to give the best of myself. I study for self-improvement, to honour my family and the brothers and sisters of the centre, to honour Compassion, to be grateful to God and to help others through my teaching career so I can contribute to a better society.”
Cristian is so grateful for your support and expresses appreciation for the love and care he has received from the Compassion centre as he works towards his bachelor’s degree in English language. “The great support I receive from the centre has greatly impacted my life,” he says. “I never imagined being able to have this great opportunity that I have received. Without a doubt, I will always be grateful to all those who make all this possible and for the great economic and spiritual support that they give to us, the young scholarship holders, to be able to continue our university studies and have better job opportunities in the future.”
Vasti, studying computer engineering, feels so blessed to have this opportunity to study and is passionate about using what she has learned to help others. “Achieving one of my dreams is only possible through God, and of course the people that God touches to help us directly,” says Vasti. “I want to inspire. I want God to allow me one day to reach out to others who are in the situation that I was in and to be able to tell them: ‘Yes, it can be done!’”
Thank you for your priceless investment in Vasti, Cristian, Isaura and 12 other young people as they continue pressing on towards a future free from poverty. We are excited to see what this next year brings, as they learn more about the unique call that God has placed on each of their lives and share their gifts and talents with those around them!