With one of the world's highest crime rates, Honduras must face major barriers to social, economic, and human development. In an effort to break the cycle of violence, the government has developed a new education strategy for 2018-2030 that calls on promoting inclusive and equitable quality education in support to reach this important goal.
Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world due to its high homicide rate:  nearly 44 murders per 100,000 people occurred in 2017.  These levels of violence are caused by a combination of factors including organized crime, the presence of maras (gangs), along with high poverty and inequality rates.
The prevalence of crime and violence has become a growing development challenge in the country, affecting opportunities for advancement, threatening livelihoods, and negatively impacting youth's prospects for employment. Additionally, it's taking a severe toll on the country's economic development: it is estimated that violence in Honduras results in an 8-10% loss of GDP annually, largely resulting from costs related to health, justice system/prisons, and policing, to name a few.
Reduction of violence requires a combination of factors including but not limited to a long-term strategy to strengthen the judicial system, reduce impunity, and improve governmental accountability. However, it also requires putting more effort towards improving access to quality education to give youth a valuable alternative to violence.
Education as a stepping stone to reduce crime and violence
Education can play a key role in reducing violence: it can foster attitudes and values needed to achieve behavioral changes, which enables individuals prone to be drawn into violence to avoid it and prevent conflict. In addition, education can empower learners while instilling respect for human rights, gender equality, and cultural diversity.
Developed with GPE's support, Honduras' education sector plan for 2018-2030 (expected to be launched later this year), promotes education as a key tool to reduce the prevalence of violence and outlines several strategies to achieve this goal.
The US$500,000 GPE plan development grant allocated to Honduras was instrumental in developing a comprehensive sector analysis which provided the foundation for the design of the programs and strategies outlined in the education plan.
GPE's role as a convener helped the government of Honduras reinstate a dialogue between partners. Over 250 individuals representing more than 50 institutions participated in the process, which promoted accountability and consensus between partners.
Expanding the roles of schools
In an effort to promote lifelong learning, the education plan proposes to launch an open schools program. It consists of making school spaces available to the community for a variety of educational activities, to break the institutional isolation of schools by transforming them into a shelter from violence while strengthening community ties.
The open schools program aims to create an optimal environment where school spaces and resources are used for non-formal education programs. This way, it ensures that communities gravitate towards schools as their use expands to include the entire community.
To ensure schools become learning hubs that promote lifelong learning, the plan recommends improving school infrastructure, building new schools, and increasing the availability of learning materials.
Prioritizing education for the youngest learners
Evidence shows that early childhood education (ECE) can help children develop emotional, social, and intellectual skills, which can help them avoid becoming either victims or perpetrators of crime later in life. Given the key role ECE plays in acting as a first deterrent of violence and crime, Honduras has made it a priority in the education plan.
One of the major obstacles in increasing access to quality early childhood education is the lack of qualified teachers; it's often the case that teachers don't have either the skills or required level of professional knowledge.
To overcome this challenge, the education plan outlines several strategies to ensure teachers are prepared to provide a quality education, especially to those with special needs, and respond to the needs of social contexts. Teachers must be prepared to address the lack of inclusion in the classroom, discrimination, and crime and violence within the community.
Improving equity in education
Studies have shown that the lack of equity is closely linked to the high levels of violence, regularly affecting young individuals who come from impoverished and under-educated backgrounds. Given this context, Honduras has identified improving equity as one of the key components going forward in reducing crime and violence in communities.
Identified as one of the main pillars of the education plan, achieving equity will function as a path to overcome barriers that hinder access, participation and increased school completion rates for every child and youth within a community. In other words, this plan will put front and center the right to a quality education for everyone, regardless of gender, religion, or social standing.
Widespread violence poses a major challenge for Honduras; and designing strategies to reduce this issue has become one of the main priorities for the government. Honduras' commitment to improving access to quality education addresses some of the root causes of violence, and hence is a step in the right direction.
For additional resources
- According to a study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2013, the global average murder rate stood at 6.2 per 100,000 population.
- Observatory of Violence at the National Autonomous University of Honduras