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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Education Crisis in Honduras: Protests in Streets & Four Students Involved in Protests Killed Last Night

Photo caption: High school students protest and fight the repression from state forces, Vicente Caceres Central Institute, March 17, 2015.

Right now, Honduran university and high school students are protesting against various reforms the Honduran government is attempting to implement in public education. Police and military are firing tear gas at University students that have occupied the National Autonomous University (UNAH) in Tegucigalpa and the press is reporting that four students have already been arrested, some beated. University students are protesting in solidarity with high school students that have taken to the streets and been repressed by state forces for days.

Photo caption: Protests in the National Autonomous University, March 2015

Since Monday, March 16th, high school students from various public schools in at least Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and Intibuca have taken to the streets to demand that the Ministry of Education stop the implementation of extended class times that would require the students to stay in classes until 7:00 pm in the evening. High school students are against finishing classes late in the evening given the extreme levels of insecurity in the country. The extended class times would also eliminate night classes, an essential program for students from low-income families that must work during the day to support their families and pay for their education.

In San Pedro Sula right now, normalistas (high school students training to be teachers) are protesting the closure of normales which would require students aspiring to be teachers to pay for expensive secondary school education and/or migrant to urban areas to attend university given limited access around the country.

Last week, during a protest on the streets in Tegucigalpa near the high school Vicente Caceres Central Institute, two high school students Darío José Cabrera and José Luis Ochoa, were shot at and injured by a private security guard located near the protests. The Honduran press is now reporting that the body of a 13-year old female student was found earlier this morning, wrapped in sheets and dumped on the side of the street. The student had been involved in the protests at the Central Institute the previous day and was found murdered after never returning to her home after the protests. Late last night, the Honduran press reported that three high school students from the Institute Jesus Aguilar Paz in Tegucigalpa, were violently killed after leaving their night classes. Today, students from the same Institute joined others across the country protesting the deaths of their two compañeros, demanding justice and an end to the government's policies.

These reforms are fundamentally linked to privatization and decentralization efforts led by the International Financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and USAID. Efforts to privatize primary and secondary education picked up pace after the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that was sparked by a "crisis" in the teacher's pension institution (IMPREMA). In response to the "crisis", the Honduran government together with the IFIs demanded reforms to public education around the country and approved the Fundamental Education Law that significantly reduced the collective power of teachers federations and making widespread change to public education. The new waves of protests around the country are a sign of further consolidation of the neoliberal reforms that the government is attempting to implement.

For background on the IFIs' role in education reform in Honduras and repression against teachers and students following the coup, see here.

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