Carol knew that her well-being, and that of her two-year-old daughter (Carol Jr.), depended on improving her education. Enrolling in a private junior high school in Santa Cruz would cost her 700 Limpera (40 CAD) a month, plus the cost of at least two uniforms, all the textbooks, and other supplies and materials. She would be in a class of more than 30 students who would all be studying the same material at the same time, so missing a class meant missing the material presented that day. She would have to start at 8:00 a.m. and stay until noon, and she couldn’t bring her daughter along. As well as being unable to pay for this, she simply couldn’t make all the required arrangements, such as child care.
Carol was 24 years old in 2012 when she enrolled in Grade 7 in the CAL program at Centro de Ensenañza Fraternidad (CPI’s main school in Santa Cruz de Yojoa). Because she had a job during the day, Carol chose the class that ran from 4 to 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Carol Jr. was allowed to accompany her while she studied.
When Carol arrived to study at 4:00 P.M. she would immediately go to one of the unoccupied computers. One day, while waiting for the computer to boot up, she noticed Mariella, at the next computer, adjusting the size of the font on her monitor. Mariella couldn’t afford the glasses she needed, but she could adjust the font size to make the print easier to read. After Carol’s computer had booted up, she clicked first on the CAL portal and then on the Grade 8 portal. The portals to the Mathematics, Civics, Natural Sciences, Spanish or Social Sciences appeared. She found the last topic that she had completed in Natural Sciences and clicked on the next one, which was a video presentation on the illnesses caused by contaminated water. Carol listened to the presentation on her headset and read other material presented on the screen. Her interest piqued, she clicked on the encyclopedia portal where a description of the hydrological cycle helped her better understand the mechanics of water contamination and the need for clean water. While reading this article she learned that herbicides and pesticides are so heavily used in Central America that the residues soak down into the water table and sometimes even contaminate well water.
Carol Jr. asked her mother to read her a story. Clicking on the library portal produced a list of books and stories, from which Carol chose a Bible story book and read the story of Noah’s ark. Then Carol entered the Social Studies portal and studied some of the geography of Honduras, the production of pineapples, and how these are grown and sold. She already knew about the local sale of pineapples, but new to her was the fact that pineapples grown in El Bambu, the village six miles up the road from Santa Cruz, are sent in 40-foot shipping containers on big Chiquita boats through Puerto Cortez to markets in Montreal. At 5:50 Carol was beginning to tire, so she clicked on the touch-typing portal and practiced her keyboarding skills for ten minutes before it was time to go.
On December 14, 2014 Carol graduated from Grade 9 with her daughter at her side.
Gabina is a 53-year-old woman who recently lost her husband. As a way of helping her cope with the loss, her children encouraged her to pursue her dream of education. Her first schooling was stopped by her parents when she was nine. Despite that, she enrolled in the Grade 6 Educatodos (an extension type education system to encourage village education, especially for adults) a year ago and completed the course. Even though there are no other women her age in her village who have a Grade 6 education, she is bravely pioneering in Grade 7 at Centro de Ensenañza Fraternidad. She admits that she gets teased in a friendly way by her neighbours for going back to school at her age.
A dressmaker by profession, Gabina dreams of finishing Grade 9 and then going to a dressmaking school so that she can, in turn, become a teacher of dressmaking. From her home, she walks 10 minutes down a very steep hill to catch a rapidito (small van) for the 30-minute ride to Santa Cruz. There she walks up to the school and studies for 4-1/2 hours straight. She returns home with one of the rapiditos before dark, then walks up the hill after dark.
Four of Gabina’s children are married but two others remain at home. Her dressmaking is not quite enough to make ends meet so her children help out. Her youngest daughter has studied up to Grade 12 equivalent and is an accountant. However, such jobs are not available in the village, so she works as a dressmaker alongside her mother. The youngest son is employed as an agricultural worker.
Karina is a 19-year-old mother of two children, aged three and two. She is married and her husband is a construction worker in their village. Her two siblings are continuing their education in other schools – University and Junior High. Obviously very gifted in school, Karina had finished Grade 8 by the time she became pregnant at age 15 (many students are only finishing Grade 6 by then). Because of the CAL program at Centro de Enseñanza Fraternidad, she now has a second chance to pursue her dream of finishing Grade 9 and then taking studies in accounting.
Karina’s parents are extremely happy for this opportunity and her mother gladly cares for the two toddlers while Karina attends school each afternoon. Even though her husband has only Grade 5, he is encouraging her to continue her studies as well.
Most of the girls her age already have children and have had to give up their hopes for an education. Karina is moving steadily through the Grade 9 course work and should be one of our first Grade 9 graduates. She hopes that her studies will, in turn, allow her to give her children a better education.
Martha is nearly 18 years old and lives at home with her parents and one sister. Two older brothers and an older sister have married and left home. The older sister is, however, living next door as her marriage has broken up.
Now that she is studying Grade 7, Martha has the opportunity to become the most educated member of her family. Her father, a farmer, has a Grade 3 education, and her mother, who works at home, only finished Grade 2. Centro de Enseñanza Fraternidad is offering Martha and her family the opportunity to have someone look to a future that holds other options for living and study. Martha is fortunate that her family and friends are giving her encouragement. Many of her friends are already mothers but they recognize Martha’s chance to choose an alternative path and they are happy for her. Until she began school, she spent her days helping around the house without opportunity to dream or think of the future.
After Martha finishes Grade 9, she hopes to attend High School and, possibly, study accounting. After one month of classes, she has finished ¾ of the first of four textbooks. If she continues at this pace, she will finish the grade in another three months.
Luis is the oldest child in a family of four children living in a small, one-room, block house in El Ciprés. Because the family has no father present, his mother makes money for the family by cooking and selling tamales. Luis helps sell tamales or looks after the other children while his mother makes the 6-km trip to Santa Cruz to sell her wares. Two siblings are in primary school and the youngest is at home.
Tamales are made from ground maize, stuffed with various meats or vegetables, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed to make a nice snack or meal. Luis was somewhat puzzled when asked if he helped make the tamales. If he learned how, he would have a job skill that no other boys would have. But that, of course, would mean he would have to step into the kitchen.
Luis is very grateful for the opportunity to extend his schooling beyond Grade 6 and is excited about finishing Grade 9 in Centro de Enseñanza Fraternidad. Without this school, he would be sitting at home with little or nothing constructive to do. Luis has worked hard and is one of more than 15 students who are completing a Grade in less than five months.Schooling in most rural Honduran villages ends at Grade 6, usually because parents cannot afford to send their children to junior high school away from home. For example, the dropout rate between Grades 6 and 7 in the Municipality of Santa Cruz de Yojoa has been as high as 96%, according to the local Superintendant of Schools. In addition to this high attrition rate, the quality of education is inadequate for a number of reasons: