COVID-19 Update: Honduras

COPEMH – (Honduran Middle School Teachers’ College)
PRICPHMA – (First Professional College of Honduran Teachers)

Central American women teachers held a virtual meeting to learn about how the health crisis is impacting their work, their students and communities. CoDev was asked to join the conversation and today we share with you an update from 2 partners; the Honduran High School Teachers’ College @COPEMH and the First Professional College of Honduran Teachers @PricphmaSeccionalDos.

In Honduras as of 19 December 2020, 116,212 have tested positive for COVID-19, and 3,023 people have died.1

On March 14, the government declared a state of emergency, prohibited gatherings of over 50 people and established a curfew between 3:00pm and 9:00am.

The current health crisis comes on top of historical debt that the government has with the Honduran people, in terms of basic public services, plus the high levels of corruption that had already been denounce; as in the case of the $21 million CAD that was looted by government authorities from the Honduran Institute of Social Security in 2014.

In some cases, doctors and healthcare workers are being threatened by authorities if they provide information such as the number of confirmed cases that are not “official” or if they don’t have the proper personal protection equipment. In other instances, healthcare workers are being stigmatized by their neighbours due to their contact with vulnerable patients. If that is not enough, we are also on alert for Dengue Fever and the Zika virus.

Teachers received instructions from the Secretary of Education to move towards teaching online and distance learning, but many of the families and communities, even teachers, don’t have access to wifi or the internet. In terms of pre-school education an important element is the socialization of children but under quarantine measures, children don’t socialize with their teachers or classmates. The government is expecting teachers to work from home, but there are no clear instructions on how that will play out. So far, only a national television channel has been established to provide classes through broadcast, without considering the communities who don’t have access to a television or electricity.

In secondary education, teachers are being asked to work with gang members and youth in conflict with the law by including these vulnerable students in the new distance learning through WhatsApp, placing teachers at a greater risk of extortion.

There are many students and communities experiencing hunger and job losses, particularly in the department of Cortes, which is the industrial capital of Honduras. Many sweatshops in the free trade zones have closed. There are workers whose vacation time or vacation pay has been taken away, and although labour lawyers ensure us that this is illegal, it is the owners of big businesses who make the laws in Honduras. In certain locations, communities are blocking traffic to ask for food, and others believe it is better to die from hunger than COVID-19.

The Ministry of Education is also offering new contracts across the country to individuals who are not trained as pre-school teachers or have any education background. There are more than 100 teachers who are not being paid. These are teachers who have worked for more than 20 or 30 years and are being asked to go to the capital to resolve their administrative issues. Many, particularly rural teachers, don’t have the money to make that trip. If they did, they face blockades and heavy military presence in the streets with many reports of abuse of power. Authorities continue to “warn” that thousands will die due to COVID-19, but we are also seeing that they are taking advantage of the health crisis to implement “social cleansing”. Women who defend their territories continue to be killed, like Iris Argentina Alvarez from the department of Choluteca.

The fear of becoming ill, of not being able to circulate freely even during “allowed hours”, the recent increase in basic food costs and the lack of job stability, particularly for those contract and informal workers, is generating a great deal of stress, anxiety, agitation and the disruption of mental health. The majority of pre-school teachers are women. Now more than ever we need to take care of each other, and exercise sorority.

CoDev’s programing with COPEMH and PRICPHMA is centered on developing and expanding Non-Sexist and Inclusive Pedagogy in Honduran high school and pre-school classrooms. This work is supported by @BCTeachersFederation, @ABteachers and @surreyteachers.

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