Friday, January 27, 2012

No easy education for Honduran children

No school for these Copan Ruinas kids

Wouldn’t you know it, a cold followed me down to Honduras. Or was it that sniffly little five-year-old who spends most of his days here at our homestay with his abuela - his grandma? So it goes. It’s always the kids that get you.
Speaking of which, I now see an area where we might be able to do something significant in Honduras. The public education system here is ludicrous; my teacher at the Spanish school, whose husband teaches in the public system, tells me he has 90 students in his class (whoa, how would the BC Teachers Federation react to THAT??), ranging in age from 5 to 11. No wonder the country has got serious problems.
There are private schools here, but it costs $100 to $150 a month to send your child to one. If you’re a minimum-wage-earner ($200 a month), obviously that’s not even in the zone. But what if I could help connect a few decently heeled British Columbians to families in Honduras with school-age children? For less than what it costs to pay for cable and Internet for a month in our land, they could support a Honduran child to get a decent education.
I’ll be working with Cuso International and the Comision deAccion Social Menonita here in Copan Ruinas. Educating youngsters isn’t part of the plan for my placement - my work with that organization will be around communications, as they’re a 30-year-old agency with a ton of good work under their belt but little written history to show for it.
But as long as I’m here, I sense an opportunity to get involved in  other interesting projects. And what could be better than trying to help educate the next generation of Hondurans? Educated people earn more, demand more from their governments, and are better able to prepare their own children for more of the same. If my partner and I can play any role in that, I’d count this year or two in Honduras as a major success.
My partner and I had already been talking about what we might do on that front when we met a young Honduran at the fiesta the other night who has the same idea. He’s an archaeologist with six years of study in the U.S. under his belt, and a native of Copan Ruinas who really wants to help the children of his home town get a better education. With his knowledge of the families in this small town and our connection to people in B.C. who might love the chance to contribute to good works in a very direct way, what’s to lose?
At the homestay where we’re camped out in a spare bedroom for the next month, the nine-year-old grandson of the owner is already speaking pretty good English as a result of being sponsored to attend the Mayatan private school, which we passed yesterday morning on our visit to one of the fincas - coffee plantations - that dot the mountainsides around here. His family could never have afforded that school if it weren’t for a wealthier family that stepped up to help young Carlos, whose father was killed in San Pedro Sula two years ago.
But that school is populated by Canadian and American teachers. The archaeologist we spoke with sees an opportunity to create similar sponsorship programs at some of the other private schools, creating more stable employment for Honduran teachers as well as better education for the students.
We’re going to talk with him more about that in the weeks to come, so stay tuned. Maybe you, too, will see a role for yourself in this project.


fhb said...

I've been a semi-regular reader of Paul's blog for the past few years and had more or less drifted away from reading it.
Then I sauntered back a few weeks ago and was surprised (to say the least) to see his new plans.
Since then, I've been following both of your blogs.

I am inspired by your efforts and I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you both how impressed I am by your willingness to take on something new.

If you find yourself the recipient of a Facebook friend request, know that it arrives from someone who's taken a great interest in both yours and Pauls (whom I've already befriended) efforts to contribute.

Good luck and thanks!

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