October 30, 2012
Even though Honduras’ spending on education proportional to GDP is among the highest in all Latin America, the results its public education produces are among the worst in the region. Honduran children on average receive only 120 days of class each year, even though the law calls for 200.
AJS-supported anti-corruption movement Transformemos Honduras has brought attention to problems plaguing Honduras’ public education system, such as illegal pay bonuses and corrupt hiring practices, and sought to counteract these ills by auditing teacher placement exams and recruiting parents to track the number of days of class their children receive.
Last fall TH also brought attention to an International Development Bank (IDB) report highlighting the negative consequences of intractable conflicts between teachers’ unions and the Honduran government that have resulted in Honduran students receiving far fewer days of class than their peers in other countries. At least once a year for the past 15 years in Honduras there has been an educational crisis in which teachers go on strike demanding a variety of benefits and children cannot go to classes. This is a chronic problem that neither teachers’ unions nor the government can seem to solve, and the lack of classes for weeks on end is terribly detrimental to Honduran children and society.
Now TH is involved in an exciting–and at the same time daunting–effort to resolve these longstanding problems. For almost the entire month of March 2011, public school teachers in Honduras were on strike once again. In some areas, the strikes degenerated into violent confrontations between protesters and riot police. Most detrimental, though, was the fact that thousands of Honduras’ most impoverished children missed an entire month of classes.
Given the Government and the Teachers Unions’ inability to agree on a long-term solution to the crisis, on March 25 TH published an open letter in three of Honduras’ major newspapers asking to be incorporated as an official, neutral, objective third party in negotiating a solution to the crisis. The response was almost immediate! The following Monday, the President of Honduras, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, read the letter out loud in a cabinet meeting. On Wednesday night he might for several hours with TH members, who shared their concerns and ideas, and on Thursday TH members testified before Honduras’ National Congress both about their research into the long-term problems in the education system, and about possible solutions.
As a result of their presence and willingness to serve as a representative of civil society, TH went on to play a significant role in shaping the outcome of the teacher strikes. TH members provided advice and analysis of various proposals and served as an important voice for the public and to the public regarding the content of the proposals. When a resolution to the crisis was finally reached, and a number of important proposals were agreed upon, Tranformemos Honduras president Carlos Hernández remarked that on the whole, the process was a success, and TH’s involvement was very important. He stated that “In general, we reached our goal. In fact, this is the first time that civil society has been involved in these negotiations.” He went on to add that “In many of the points (agreed upon by the teachers and the government), civil society is an actor”, which means that children and parents will continue to have a voice in the subject of education.”