Back to the Guatemalan School Year 2008

Buying School Supplies for the Guatemalan School Year 2008

Bookstores and stationary stores are jam-packed this time of the year in La Antigua Guatemala and throughout the country since the new school year is about to start. Yes, that is right, you read correctly, the Guatemalan school years begins sometime in January and ends sometime in October.

Boys and girls have been given their school supplies lists already and they need to purchase them before the first day of classes.

Public schools are free in Guatemala, minus some administrative fees. But, everything you need for school is not free; you need to buy a every single pencil and sheet of paper as well as any book or notebook, cuaderno in Spanish.

In the picture above, we can see parents with their children making the queues to purchase all the necessary school supplies at Librerí­a Castillo in La Antigua Guatemala; librerí­a is the Spanish term for bookstore or stationary store.

© 2008 – 2013, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • Sigh. The smell of new school supplies! When I was a kid, I liked the smell of new utiles (school supplies). Yeah. Perhaps I was a bit odd, but I liked the smell of all the new school supplies and I was taught to take care of them because, as you point out, they were to last me from January until October. I especially liked erasers that smelled fruity or those colored pencils that I cherished so much that I would like them up all nice and neat. If you have seen the series Monk, yeah, I probably had a bit of Monk in me then. Or now. 😉

  • I was just reminiscing about this January event browsing at a Dollar Store and noticed some very familiar pencil sharpeners… they were just like the ones I used to get on my bolsa de útiles. And yes, the smell of plastic comes to my mind as well. In my school (Liceo Guatemala, a Catholic school in La Capital that at the time was “boys only”) we used to get forros (plastic dust covers) for both textbooks and notebooks. Oh, the memories… well, I still got excited when I get my new textbook for the course I started last week (the last one of the PhD!). It seems after more than three decades I won’t have “back-to-school” traditions after this term for myself and it might be a while until I have them for my own kids.

  • Claudia

    OMG – It’s weird but I also think of that plastic smell. I remember I always wanted the fancy “portaminas” (that’s those plastic pencils that have pointy refills and then you take out the used one and insert it in the top so a new one comes down. But my parents were old school – plain pencils – I wanted fancy pencil sharpeners and fruity smelling borradores (erasers) but they’d get the metal looking sharpener and a pink eraser. It was such a big to do when I lost a pencil because that meant I couldn’t do homework and I’d have to get 15 cents to go to the tienda and get one. Secretly I liked those because they had little designs on them, even though most of the time the lead was broken so each time you’d sharpen it the tip would break off. . .sigh. . it’s funny but you don’t realize how hard it must have been for some of our parents. By the way I wanted to mention that students are also responsible to purchase their own textbooks. Yes, textbooks.
    When I was in 10th grade I decided to go study a year abroad so I went back to Guate. I can’t even start to describe the utter shock of the amount of homework, let alone that I got Fs throughout the school year because the math was so much more advanced than the math I’d been doing here. I truly felt like a dunce. Nevermind the marquetas and caligraphy. . .It was like homework bootcamp. Ha ha, I remember ‘fisica’ – (phys ed) was the real deal, in that hot March Sun, I was like, what did I get myself into? Needless to say after a year and half my parents pulled the plug and told me to get my rear end back to NY. But (besides school) it was quite an experience.

  • Claudia

    By the way, I tip my hat to you Manolo, it’s very inspiring to hear about fellow compatriots getting their education to that level.

  • Mario

    New school supplies…
    New clothes….
    New teachers…
    New friends…
    and one of my favorite things they used to make us do was practice our marching skills “MARCHAR”. The sound of the drummers, feet stomping hard on the ground, arms swinging back and forth. We would do this for 5 – 7 minutes until the Cadete wanna be dude would give the AAAAAAAAALTO!!! command. And with that the entire student peloton would initiate the grand finale step
    tat…tat tat tat TAT! Click your heels together.
    I miss those marching days (sarcasm).

  • Y empieza la temporada de asalto “legalizado” contra los padres de familia en Guate. A la gente tambien no le da la mula, comprar un cuaderno en pleno enero es 3 veces mas caro que comprarlo en octubre, cuando se acaban las clases…

  • es penoso realmente que como explicas en el post la educación publica es gratuita pero cada lápiz y cada hoja son pagadas por los padres, creo que al sistema educativo debe de empezar por cumplir con la constitución en el sentido que es el estado el obligado a dar educación gratuita, y cierto es gratuita pero tendrán todos los padres de familia los medios económicos para cubrir los gastos de útiles escolares, no lo creo? tal vez esta sea una de las causas de deserción escolar en nuestro país. Como siempre es un gusto ver tus fotos.