Hope for a better future

23.03.2016 - 10:28 | Djulijana Zekic

Yeldis and Shania leave school and return home when it starts to rain. And when it is hot, they are bothered by mosquitos. They attend classes but their school has neither wall nor roof. The teacher teaches in the open air, and learning conditions are very poor. And even the fact that both girls go to school at all can by no means be taken for granted.

© Stiftung Kinderdorf Pestalozzi

Yeldis and Shania are friends. They live in La Ceiba, in northern Honduras, at the Atlantic coast. La Ceiba has over 200 000 inhabitants and is considered the country‘s third most important city. Surrounded by several national parks and white sandy beaches, the city harbours tremendous potential to become a sought-after destination for eco tourists.

Sad first place in criminal statistics

But La Ceiba is a dangerous city. The towns of Honduras belong to the planet’s most violent places. With 86 murders per 100 000 inhabitants per year, Honduras occupies a sad first place in criminal statistics, well ahead of its neighbours El Salvador (66 murders) and Guatemala (41.4). The figure for Switzerland is 0.7.

La Ceiba is a town full of contrast: In the city centre are the houses of the rich, in the poor suburbs – the so called colonias – live the poor. Here, street children look for shelter and youth gangs dominate the streets. Most children in the colonias enrol in school, but many never finish it. They are many reasons for untimely dropping out: Many families are too poor to send all their children to school. If they have to decide who to send, they tend to prefer investing in the education of their boys. 60 per cent of girls look after their younger siblings or work in the household. The traditional role models are perpetuated at home and in school.

«60 per cent of girls look after their younger siblings or work in the household.»

Friends in spite of all old prejudices

Shania lives with her mother and her six siblings in one of the colonias, in Corozal. Her father is in Columbia where he works as a fisherman to gain money to support the family. The family belongs to the ethnic minority Garifuna who has Indian and African ancestors.

Yeldis is the eldest of six children. She and her parents live close to Shania. Yeldis is – like the majority of the population – Mestizo, a descendent of European immigrants and indigenous people. Adult members of both population groups tend to harbour prejudices against each other and view each other with scepticism. But Shania and Yeldis are best friends, and thanks to the projects of the Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation, they attend the same class.

Both girls are unhappy because classes are often cancelled because of bad weather. They wish there was a school building that would protect them from the rain. Many schools in the slums and in rural areas are old and lack adequate infrastructure. Often there is only one classroom for classes 1 to 6, and particularly in rural areas, the way to school can be as long as two hours. There is not enough money for school books and teaching materials. 20 per cent of the country’s budget is spent on education, making education the biggest expenditure item. But only 5 per cent are used for teacher training and teaching materials, the biggest part is spent for administration.

Wishes for the future

Thanks to the work of the Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation, children of ethnic minorities and poor families gain access to good quality basic education. We strive to ensure that children can exercise their rights and we encourage authorities to take measures to protect these rights. Shania and Yeldis have already benefitted from our commitment. 15 year old secondary school student Yeldis dreams of working in a bank and wants to travel to the United States once in her life. Shania too has a clear objective: She wants to become a psychologist in order to learn more about people and society and help build a better future.