Honduran Teachers: Struggling for Justice
Upon entering the room where the Women’s Network of the Honduran College of Middle School Teachers (COPEMH) was holding its workshop on Non-Sexist Pedagogy, you wouldn’t know that many of the teachers there had just heard they’d lost their jobs. The positive energy in the room was palpable, as was the excitement of 36 women working together to create positive social change.
On Monday November 5th, the Honduran Ministry of Education announced the firing of over 1000 teachers, most of them members of COPEMH. The reason goes back to November 2011 when the government declared a state of emergency and removed the right to strike. In August 2012, the union organized assemblies for their members as allowed under the Honduran Teachers’ Law. In November 2012 the government responded by issuing a new decree which makes it illegal for Hondurans to participate in any civil protest under the state of emergency, and then applied the new decree retroactively to cover the August assemblies.
In Honduras, teachers have been on the front lines of the struggle for democracy since the 2009 coup that saw President Mel Zelaya taken out of office. Since then, the Popular Resistance Front, the agglomeration of civil society groups opposed to the current government, has formed the political party, Libertad y Reformacion (LIBRE), and there is a sense in Honduras that the party stands a real chance of winning next year’s election. On Sunday November 18th, 2012, Hondurans will go to the polls to elect candidates for next year’s election. As Hondurans are not required to be members of a political party to vote, the election will serve as a poll of political will in the country. COPEMH sees the mass firings of teachers as a means to instill fear in teachers and decrease support for the LIBRE party.
In spite of the climate in which teachers operate, COPEMH members are hard at work trying to improve their public education system. The Women’s Network, organized by COPEMH’s Women’s Secretariat, is made up of representatives of Honduras’ 18 provinces, and has spent the past two years developing a non-sexist pedagogy module to better address issues of gender and sexuality through a series of workshops supported by CoDev and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF). In a country where women’s rights are a daily struggle, the empowerment of women is a step towards a less violent, more peaceful society. In their most recent workshop, they were joined by Nancy Hinds and Alison Davies of the BCTF, who worked with the group to train them on participatory, experiential workshop methods. The workshop participants will now return to their home regions and train their fellow teachers. Seeing their dedication to making their country a better place is inspiring. We are proud to work in solidarity with these remarkable women.