The Coronavirus pandemic has aggravated many issues throughout the world. The lockdowns and regulations imposed by different governments have led many to face unprecedented circumstances. Honduras, a country unfortunately known for its high rates of poverty, violence, and inequity, is no exception. Since the declaration of the pandemic in March 2020, the Honduran government mandated complete lockdowns for its entire population of 10 million (The World Bank, 2020). This has led to a spike of unemployment, health and socio-political crises, as well as an exacerbation of the on-going educational crisis.
Honduras is a country where about 66% of the population lives in poverty (The World Bank, 2020). At the end of 2019, about 375,000 children, between the ages of 6 to 17, relied on the public education system administered by the government (Rivera, 2019). Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, the country faced an educational crisis. In December 2019, reports indicated that out of the 2,339,680 children in the country who were of school age, 14% were not receiving any type of formal education (Rivera, 2019). Despite these statistics being made public, and even though the educational issues have been on-going for more than a decade, there seems to be no change in the system that encourages or enforces parents and caregivers to enroll children in schools. El Código de la Niñez, which is the official Honduran code that protects and oversees the rights of the children, states that every minor under 18 years of age has the right to receive an education. Nonetheless, even though children’s rights are legally recognized, they are not truly protected or supported by governmental institutions.
The public educational system has faced many issues in recent years. Overall, the quality of the education is poor, specifically in rural areas of the country. Teachers are often forced to go on strikes because they are overworked and under-compensated. There is also a lack of technical training in most public institutions and children are rarely provided with school supplies or textbooks. In addition to this, the curriculum materials are not adapted to the different ethnic and cultural groups of the country, such as the Garifuna or Creole languages (Humanium, n.d.). All of these obstacles have discouraged caregivers and children. High illiteracy rates have resulted; in February 2020, a month before the declaration of the pandemic, UNESCO’s data showed illiteracy rates in Honduras had increased to 13% (Portillo, 2020).
Once the government declared mandatory lockdowns as preventative measures for COVID-19, the public education in Honduras ceased to exist. All of the children enrolled in the public system have been unable to receive any formal education for months. Most of them have become child workers to support their families and, unfortunately, others have become known as “street children.” Street children are considered one of the poorest and most marginalized groups in the nation. They often scavenge for food in garbage bins, beg for money at stoplights, or, in worst-case scenarios, join gangs and face risk of violence, prostitution, and drug abuse. Many US news outlets have highlighted how gangs in Honduras substitute formal education and teach children that “crime pays” (Arce, 2014).
In June 2020, local authorities stated that they do not know when the public education system will reopen (Reyes, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic also poses challenges for students in the private education system. Many of these children are unable to afford technology or Internet services due to the financial crisis that has resulted in their caregivers losing their jobs. Others may have access to a computer or tablet but cannot connect to the Internet due to the constant power outages produced by governmental polices. According to multiple local news outlets that have interviewed parents, caregivers, and children across the country, many citizens have come to accept that the academic year will effectively be lost, with children not receiving any formal education until further notice (Reyes, 2020). In addition, for many poor children, the socio-economic crisis in the nation means that they will most likely never return to school, instead continuing to help their families as child workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic itself is not to blame for the educational crisis in Honduras. Nevertheless, it has exacerbated many issues in the public educational system, exposing millions of children to illiteracy, abuse, neglect, violence, and child labor. The Honduran law states that children have the right to education, family, and dignity. However, with high rates of child labor and illiteracy, more than 160,000 child orphans, and millions of minors without access to education, it seems that children’s rights and well-being are more at risk than ever in Honduras.
Arce, A. (2014). In Honduras, gangs control the schools and what children learn is that crime pays. Albuquerque Journal. https://www.abqjournal.com/512185/and-what-children-learn-is-that-crime-pays.html
Humanium. (n.d.) Children of Honduras: Realizing children’s rights in Honduras.https://www.humanium.org/en/honduras/
Portillo, N.P. (2020). Analfabetismo en Honduras. La Tribuna. https://www.latribuna.hn/2020/02/15/analfabetismo-en-honduras/
Reyes, G. (2020). Niños pobres hondureños perderían el año escolar a causa del COVID-19. Agencia EFE. https://www.efe.com/efe/america/sociedad/ninos-pobres-hondurenos-perderian-el-ano-escolar-a-causa-del-covid-19/20000013-4265568
Rivera, J.C. (2019). La educación pública de Honduras está aplazada, y de paso es excluyente. La Prensa. https://www.laprensa.hn/premium/1342342-410/educacion-publica-aplazada-excluyente-honduras
The World Bank. (2020). Honduras Data. https://data.worldbank.org/country/honduras
Rita Michelle Rivera is originally from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Rita is currently pursuing a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at Albizu University, in Miami, Florida, with a concentration in neuropsychology. She is Chair of the Florida Psychological Association of Graduate Students (FPAGS), President-elect of the Florida Graduate Coalition for Medical Psychology, President of Student Council at Albizu University, and Co-chair of several working groups of the APA’s Interdivisional COVID-19 Taskforce. Rita’s areas of interest include trauma, psychoneuroimmunology, and depressive disorders. She has experience working with Hispanic patients and high-risk populations both in the United States and in Honduras.