13 Ajaw 8 Pax (February 4, 2016): Teaching Glyphs in the National Education System

13 Ajaw 8 Pax. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

13 Ajaw 8 Pax. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

Dear readers,

Over recent years we have seen glyph workshops of many kinds at many levels, but it seems to me that none can be more significant for future epigraphy in indigenous Maya areas than the introduction of epigraphy to the school teachers themselves, who then in turn can multiply the knowledge exponentially in public schools. I present today two such programs, one from Yucatan and one from Guatemala. I have asked the leaders of these two movements to tell us in their own words why this is important.

Bruce Love, President, MAM


TEACHING MAYA GLYPHS THROUGH THE PROGRAM KO’ONE’EX KANIK MAAYA
by Prof. Milner Rolando Pacab Alcocer
January, 2016

One of the great challenges in education that is imparted to the Maya children of Yucatan, from any geographical part of our state, is to provide quality education that has relevance, seeking to deliver the skills that are expected for childhood development, and skills that have meaning, that are linked to daily life.

Under this premise, the Bureau of Indigenous Education notes that in urban communities of our state many children, despite having Maya descent, have Spanish as their mother tongue and do not have opportunities to develop and strengthen their identity and sense of belonging to the culture of their grandparents.

On behalf of these children, Ko’one’ex Kanik Maaya program was established as an alternative to contribute to the development of learning, assessment, and appreciation of the knowledge of their ancestors. This not only involves learning the Mayan language, but also the extensive cultural knowledge and experience that is carried through language, such as its traditions, customs, and mathematical and astronomical knowledge that are still present and are useful in the daily lives of the Maya people.

From this perspective, the education that is offered to these children is intended to cover the entirety of the worldview of our mother culture, and this is the line of work that the institution has set for the implementation of this educational program in 85 urban schools where it operates.

However, despite more than 20 years since its implementation, it has not considered the teaching of the ancient script of our grandparents as part of its contents until this school year, with the concept that the Ko’one’ex Kanik Maaya program could be the means for teaching and dissemination of epigraphy to new generations.

Besides being an innovation in the contents of the 25 schools participating in this school year, there is a great opportunity for the Mayan glyphs to break loose from the idea that they are the exclusive field for researchers and experts, for it can be a component that strengthens the identity of our children who learn to handle the syllabary to read and produce their own texts through this epigraphic system and it can awaken interest in this field of study for future researchers and disseminators of this valuable writing system in which much remains to be discovered.

Poster from the Ko’ox Kanik Maaya school program.  Left side: ko-o-ne-e-xa ka-ni-ki ma-ya; Ko’one’ex kanik Maya; “Let’s learn Maya.” Right side: ta-na i-ni ka-ni-ki tz’i-bi ye-te-le ma-ya wo-jo-bo; Tan in kanik tz’ib yetel Maya wojo’ob; “I am learning ancient writing with Maya glyphs.”

Poster from the Ko’ox Kanik Maaya school program.
Left side: ko-o-ne-e-xa ka-ni-ki ma-ya; Ko’one’ex kanik Maya; “Let’s learn Maya.”
Right side: ta-na i-ni ka-ni-ki tz’i-bi ye-te-le ma-ya wo-jo-bo; Tan in kanik tz’ib yetel Maya wojo’ob; “I am learning ancient writing with Maya glyphs.”


IMPORTANCE OF MAYA EPIGRAPHY IN INTERCULTURAL BILINGUAL EDUCATION IN GUATEMALA
by Victor Maquin, Maya Q’eqchi’ Educator
January, 2016

(please see our blog 8 Ajaw 8 Xul, July 19, 2015, for the first El Estor workshop)

In El Estor, Izabal, in the north of Guatemala, during 2015 two training workshops on Maya epigraphy were conducted aimed at Maya Q’eqchi’ teachers practicing in public schools to strengthen processes to recover the ancient Mayan knowledge with the idea of reproducing it as classroom content.

From my point of view, I perceived that this type of training was necessary and essential for boosting the capacities of teachers, due to the limited opportunities for training with cultural relevance that exists within the national education system, which has not yet taken seriously Intercultural Bilingual Education, which is one of the main demands of the indigenous population, which is currently the majority despite official statistical indexes that try to make invisible this growing reality in urban and rural areas.

In this context, educational communities are scenes in which we encounter  cultural expressions of many varied regions; in particular in the case of El Estor, Izabal, however, besides the Q’eqchi’ there is the presence of Achi, Poqomchi’, K’iche’, and Garifuna, who continue to use their languages, traditions, and customs, forming a multicultural space that enriches all groups.

Thus, the workshops on Maya epigraphy, aimed at Maya Q’eqchi’ teachers, have had a positive impact on the educational communities, mainly reaffirming the ancestral identity and pride in descent from the ancient Mayan culture for the teachers themselves, who then transmit the teachings to students to regain the ability to read the writing on the monuments and Maya codices.

In this sense, I think Intercultural Bilingual Education in Guatemala still has a long way to go, however in many places in the national geography teachers come with a high potential that are contributing to the construction of the ancestral identity as part of the process of claiming of the rights of the Maya people.

Consequently, it is necessary that the Ministry of Education recognizes that Guatemala is a multicultural and multilingual country, where through a culturally relevant education, the Maya people can intervene in the social, political and cultural scene as part of the struggle to achieve the ability of our people to build for ourselves our own historical destiny.

The goal of Maya education is that schools are centers of culture and cultural identity to promote values, principles, and knowledge from our own reality, from our Maya worldview, i.e., our own way of seeing and interpreting the world of our ancestors.

Laa’o jo ‘aj ralch’och’ li qak’ulub wank “chi li roksinkil nawom xe’xkanab ‘chaq eb’ li qana ‘qayuwa’. We as Maya peoples have the right to regain the use of the knowledge that we inherited from our ancestors.

Q’eqchi’ Maya school teachers from Izabal Department, Guatemala. Bottom row on far right: Vicor Maquin, local organizer and participant in Ocosingo Congress of Maya Epigraphers; upper row on far right: Q’eqchi’ epigrapher Hector Xol.

Q’eqchi’ Maya school teachers from Izabal Department, Guatemala. Bottom row on far right: Vicor Maquin, local organizer and participant in Ocosingo Congress of Maya Epigraphers; upper row on far right: Q’eqchi’ epigrapher Hector Xol.

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