Over the past year, Honduras has faced great challenges in its educational system. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the greatest disruption that education has ever suffered in the country. With a weak online system, no resources to buy computers, pay for internet services, or acquire cell phones, children have faced countless challenges in accessing virtual education.
According to Alden Rivera, representative of the Honduran Foundation for Development Studies, “at least 300,000 boys and girls have dropped out of the classroom in 2020 as a result of the pandemic,” something that has produced two problems, lack of education and an increase in child labor. He explained that 2021’s data from the INE Household Survey show that 44 percent of boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 17 are out of the school system.
Boys and girls from the groups with the highest level of exclusion from educational coverage are those who live in rural areas (48.7 percent), those between 3 and 5 years old (65 percent), and adolescents between 12 and 14 years old (55.1 percent) and between 15 and 17 years old (74.6 percent); 55% of the youth population are not studying. The crisis in education is alarming. Aden Rivera explains that to understand “why so many caravans leave,” the crisis in education must be addressed. In Honduras, about two-thirds of young people between the ages of 12 and 30 do not study or work, or only work.
In Guacamala, Guayaya, Santa Barbara, Honduras, Professor Luis Alcides Fernandez has found creative solutions to help the students in his community of Guacamala. After consulting with local parents, obtaining their permission and purchasing face masks and gels to ensure biosecurity measures, he and his wife transformed their garage into a classroom. “Profe Luis” gives classes to elementary school students on Mondays and Tuesdays.
In an interview with the instructor he told us that “he couldn’t just sit by, collect a payment from the government and not help the students.” Most of the students do not have internet in their home, and the homework packets that schools hand out, are not understandable for many students. “The students have no way of asking for clarification,” he said.
“Children are not learning with these packets and most do not have internet at home,” Fernandez stressed. The students who take classes in professor Luis’ garage participate in live lessons, enjoy snacks prepared by the professor’s wife, and learn, all within the biosecurity measures promoted by the authorities. He teaches classes on Mondays and Tuesdays.
“We decided to hold classes here because this is one way to help parents; buying an internet plan does not help families in the long term. This is why we decided to explain the lessons to them and then they go home to study and complete their homework. We do this with parental permission. We keep social distance, provide gel, masks and everything for the children.”
Not all families in Honduras have the ability to pay for their internet. During our interview, the children present offered their opinion on the matter: “We are happy because we learn more.” A student added, “before these classes, we didn’t understand anything, this is much better, es mejor asi!”
“The truth is that children need a teacher, and teachers need their students,” wrote a parent on the professor’s page. Another praised the professor’s commitment to teaching and to the students:
“Unquestionably, he is one of the best teachers we have here, one of our true teachers. Thank you! Luis Acidity Fernández.”
Profe Luis has been touched by the support he has received through social media and news interviews: “I am grateful for all the support that I have received. The teachers in Honduras want to return to our work, but we are in a situation that is not easy, globally, and it is especially difficult for Honduras.
“It is urgent that teachers and students get vaccinated so we can return to the classrooms and to teaching and learning,” commented the professor.
“What we do here at home, opening our backyard to teach is because we have a great commitment to our people, to the country. We are able to do it because we have a lot of open space, and can teach while having enough distance among the children. We can also guarantee all hygiene measures, masks and snacks, which my wife prepares with great love.”
“When things are done with humility, respect and honesty, they work. I believe that education can transform communities for the better,” commented Professor Luis.
“We offer all basic courses and add art and calligraphy, because the children enjoy them very much. This is our commitment to our youth. The state pays us and it is our responsibility. We do it for the sake of the children. We can’t just sit by and do nothing. This is a compromise we have with Honduras and with the children,” shared Professor Luis.
Turcios graduated from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras. He is a News Presenter on Paradise TV, in Santa Bárbara, Honduras. He enjoys telling stories of overcoming, solidarity and perseverance of the “tierra adentro” peoples of rural communities, their way of life and how they work after their dreams. Turcios is also featured in Honduras’ daily news and #Mundo. He is a former public relations officer for UN Women in Honduras, promoting campaigns in support of women in politics.