The Maya Kaqchikel University (UMK) is a a university formed by the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala. The University began its academic activities in 2014, and their primary objective is to train professionals with technical, scientific, and methodological strength to promote building a fair society with gender equality and openness to multiculturalism. Maya Kaqchikel University believes their academic approach is an opportunity to overcome the marginalization and discrimination of the Mayan people and to strengthen their own capacity and potential.
Within Guatemalan society, the Mayan people’s strength is perceived only as physical, not mental. UMK believes through higher education and increased professionalization of indigenous people in Guatemala is a way for personal, family, and community dignity. UMK offers a liberating education, based on creativity and stimulating reflections on the discussions within the current contexts of society. Throughout all of the courses at the university, students are viewed and treated as self-constructors, creators of culture, and makers of history rather than objects within culture and history. UMK provides opportunities for students to cultivate their own worldviews, wisdom, technologies, values, principles and production models.
Specific goals of the UMK include:
- to construct holistic study
- to develop research, creativity, and innovation
- To promote creativity, initiative, critical thinking, and social awareness
- To promote the protection of ancestral knowledge
- To be accessible to the public and to provide services to the community
- To value and promote the life and culture of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala
The UMK offers learning opportunities in the justice system and community law, teaching Mayan language and history, ancestral studies (ex: crafts, eco-tourism, native medicine, etc.), business administration, and organizational systems. In 2016, over 200 students attended courses at the university. Depending on the program selected, UMK awards diplomas, degrees, and/or certificates to those who complete their course of study.
During 2016, UMK graduated 29 students from the program for Mayan language and history teachers. To graduate from this program, students must either write a thesis or serve several months as a student teacher with a written final report. The report and the thesis must both be defended before an examiner. Diplomas are then distributed in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Guatemala and the Rector of the State University to ensure that their diplomas will be recognized around the country.
Further, in 2016, UMK and professors from the University of Antioquia of Colombia began collaborating for the academic training of UMK professors. UMK also met with four universities in Cuba to form an exchange program for students and professors between these universities. UMK also met with several private universities in Guatemala to create opportunities to share academic experiences and coordinate activities and academic forums on subjects of higher education.