Honduran teachers ready to return to classrooms, but with conditions

Tegucigalpa, Jan 3 (EFE).- Public sector teachers’ unions in Honduras are ready to have their members resume in-person classes this year if the government guarantees them certain conditions and the implementation of health measures to prevent Covid-19 infection, educational leaders told EFE on Monday.

“We haven’t been reluctant to return to the classrooms … It’s necessary. It’s urgent to return to the classrooms. If the government of Xiomara Castro guarantees us those conditions to lessen the risks, I believe that on Feb. 1 we would be returning,” the president of the Mid-Level Education Teachers College, Fidel Garcia, said.

He said that to return to the classrooms it is necessary to guarantee that students are vaccinated against the coronavirus and have adequate infrastructure in place along with access to public services such as water, school meals and free enrollment.

“The willingness to return to classes exists. We understand that it’s needed. We’ve had an incredible academic lag, just like in the rest of the world, but in our country it’s been about eight or 10 years, added to the delay we already had,” Garcia said.

The Honduran government closed the schools in mid-March 2020, less than a month after the start of the school year, which runs from February to November, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

After the shutdown, classes were provided remotely, a situation that has affected thousands of children, mainly in the poorest families, because they lack Internet access, and thus they have not been attending online classes.

Of the 1.3 million students registered in 2020 in Honduras, just 600,000 finished the school year, putting the Central American country in a “situation of calamity in educational matters,” Garcia said.

He said that the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the deficiencies of the Honduran educational system, calling it a country that will need “six or eight years to repair this historic damage” in the educational realm.

“In Honduras, we need a real educational revolution, not a patch-over. A radical change is needed beginning with the basic national curriculum that responds to the interests of society, but also that teaches Hondurans to think and to be critical,” he said.

Garcia said he was concerned that the increase in Covid-19 cases could delay the resumption of in-person classes, but he added that he was sure that if the government can supply “biosecurity material” and vaccinate the children and teachers “there would be no problem” in having teachers return to the classrooms.

However, he went on to say that just 10 percent of the country’s 24,000 schools have a sewage system, only 45 percent have optimal potable water conditions and others lack electricity and have structural problems.

“There’s much to do in the educational system,” he emphasized, adding that the new government should support education and increase the sector’s budget to “have better coverage.”

About two million children and teens are currently outside the Honduran educational system, and Garcia said that getting them back into the classrooms is the “great challenge’ for teachers and parents.

The president of the Pedagogical College of Honduras, Edwin Hernandez, agreed with Garcia that the return to the classrooms is needed, but he also said that vaccination of kids between 5-11 is also needed.

“Vaccination is going to give us the possibility to begin the school year, whether that’s in a semi-present or (fully) in-person way,” Hernandez emphasized, adding that the teachers’ unions hope that in the first week of April at least 65 percent of students will be getting in-person class instruction.

He said that not returning to the classrooms in 2022 would be “a disaster” for students in Honduras, where 68 percent of them did not receive any class instruction in 2021 due to the lack of a computer or online access for remote learning.

Hernandez said that the educational sector was already in crisis before the start of the pandemic, with 379,542 people having been infected by the coronavirus and 10,434 having died since March 2020, according to official figures.

EFE ac/lll/bp

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