Four weeks ago delegates from the Honduran Education Department came and went from Utila, leaving mandates of disruptive change for the public schools in their wake.
Parents and Teachers Rebel
- A small delegation of school officials from Utila traveled to Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, to meet with the Head of Education. As the four began a discussion, the department head admitted that he knew nothing about the visit of the group from his office. He reveals that the group leader resigned from his position prior to making the trip, making the visit puzzling and rather funny, to me. It is another example of the colorful culture of Honduras that I enjoy, mostly.
- The following week, Jill and I checked in with teachers and students to find out what was going on with them in the waiting. It turns out that plenty was happening: the seventh, eighth, and ninth grade teachers at Centro Educación Básica República de Honduras (CEBRH) abandoned their students and went to the Alton Cooper school. Many students from Alton Cooper school in the sixth – first grades moved over to the CEBRH public school. Classes in those grades swelled from forty some students to over sixty kids per grade. The remaining teachers, besides having unmanageable class sizes, were floating between the three abandoned classes. Even though the students from Alton Cooper school came over as mandated, non of the teachers from that school did. (Update: the teachers who left are now teaching their former classes in the afternoons.)
- In talking with the older CEBRH students about moving to the Alton Cooper school, we found strong reactions in the negative. They were making contingent plans to move to other schools, both on and off the island of Utila. As we asked why the students were not going to Alton Cooper, the students were passionate and clear in their reasons: the school books the students are required to pay for fall apart before the school year is done (and why are we paying for books when it is a public school, too, asked one student angrily), the students fiercely don’t like the students who attend the other school because they are “catty” and “talk about you”, and “we are not going there.” I had heard about the animosity between the two schools, but now it was out in the open.
- A second group from the Department of Education in Tegucigalpa came to Utila last week and met with a large room full of school administrators, parents, and students. The mayor of Utila was absent from the meeting until the information being disseminated was going to effect him and his namesake school. The mayor’s school administrator, widely called ” The Snake”, was present and called him to tell him to get to the meeting rápido. He arrived in time to hear that the mandates would stand as previously directed.
With Power Comes the Opportunity for Rule Breaking
As soon as the Department of Education group left the building, Utila’s mayor addressed the room. “This is MY island”, he declared. “I’m not doing any of what they just said.” He went on to say, among other things, that the CEBRH teachers are idiots, as in they aren’t doing the work they are supposed to and that they are against education. Come again? One islander said it best about the whole fiasco, “This type of stuff should be worked out between school terms, not while the kids are trying to get an education.”
The above attitude oozing from every sweaty pore of this twelve-year-mayor of Utila answers the question Jill and I ask ourselves every day we advocate for the Children of Utila: “Why are we, foreigners, doing for the children what their own community isn’t doing?” The answer: Fighting for children is what we do.
Name an issue where you have no trouble choosing a fight. Share in the comments.