October 30, 2015
It’s been an awesome week for Transformemos Honduras (“Let’s Transform Honduras”), the AJS-supported movement bringing Hondurans of all stripes together to hold the government officials accountable to improving the country instead of just looking out for their own interests.
On Thursday, May 6, TH held a press conference kicking off its initiative to weed out corruption in Honduras’ public education system that is ruining kids’ chances for a brighter future. The situation is so severe that UNESCO reports Honduras is 100 years behind neighboring Costa Rica and Panama in terms of educational development.
Reporters from 20 different news media attended the conference. So did representatives of USAID, the UNDP, the GTZ, and other international donor organizations interested in learning how Honduras’ Ministry of Education was using (or misusing) the funds they donated. During the conference TH president, Carlos Hernandez, handed reams of evidence of corruption in the Ministry of Education to Osvaldo Canales (left), head of the National Anti-Corruption Council (a semi-autonomous government agency), publicly urging him to take action.
The press conference highlighted three big problems:
- Illegally Inflated Salaries: Since 2003, Honduras has lost an estimated $65 million in illegally inflated salaries paid to about 10,000 of Honduras’ 60,000 public school teachers. With all the money wrongly spent on these inflated salaries, Honduras instead could have hired 1,400 additional teachers. TH has obtained and posted the names of thousands of illegally overpaid teachers on its website.
- Mass Firings and Political Favors: One of the first things Pepe Lobo’s administration did after taking power was to fire 163 staff members (in other words, almost everyone) of an alternative education program that has helped 80,000 Hondurans graduate from sixth grade and that USAID has poured millions of dollars into. The staff were replaced with National Party activists who were unqualified for the job but expected to be rewarded for campaigning for the party last fall. Until TH publicized this important story yesterday, it had been mostly ignored by the major Honduran media.
- “Phantom” Teachers: TH members have been going from school to school checking official payroll lists against reality. At one school they found that of 55 teachers on payroll, only 33 actually show up to work. The other 22 seem to be “phantoms”–they get paid, but no one knows who or where they are. TH has set up a website where parents can easily locate their childrens’ schools, download a list of the teachers on the official payroll, check with school administrators how the list lines up with reality, and report the results back to TH.
Read more (in Spanish) about TH’s work to root out corruption and improve education at the TH website.