October 29, 2011
Almost every day this year children in the small town of Guadalupe, Honduras put on their white and blue school uniforms and walked to school, only to find the classroom door locked, and no teacher in sight. The teacher, who was supposed to be imparting valuable lessons on reading and writing to first through third graders hardly ever showed up for class, and when she did, she was often drunk. Frustrated, the parents in the town tried talking to the head of the school district, but he refused to listen.
Unfortunately, this problem is quite common in Honduras. An Association for a More Just Society (AJS) study from 2010 indicated that 27% of teachers on the public school payroll were not in the classroom. But, AJS is working hard to change this situation, and when the exasperated parents didn’t receive any answer from the school district, they knew they could go to an AJS community worker for help.
The community worker connected the parents with lawyers from AJS’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (ALAC). The AJS lawyers presented a report on the case to national public education authorities, who responded almost immediately by traveling to the school to do an inspection. At the inspection, the parents’ accusations were proven—the teacher was nowhere to be found.
After this discovery, as dictated by law, the teacher was summoned to a disciplinary hearing. When she didn’t attend the disciplinary hearing, the education authorities started the process to fire her.
In addition, education authorities are waiting for a report from the head of the school district as to why he didn’t take action at the local level. If he does not respond, he will be subjected to a disciplinary hearing as well.
ALAC lawyers note that the children in Guadalupe are now back in school with a new teacher, and ALAC coordinator Ludim Ayala says with satisfaction, “Children have a right to receive a quality education from a qualified teacher. We are pleased to be able to help the education authorities make this happen by rooting out corruption and negligence in Honduran public schools.”