Social Educational Work defending the environmental future.
agging literacy rates led the Honduran Government, in 1977, to establish a literacy program through which high school students had to teach adults how to read and write, as a requirement for high school graduation. Generations of students devoted 140 hours of their senior year to give literacy lessons to adults and fulfill this obligation.
Fifty years later, a group of students from the American School of Tegucigalpa (AST) took on the challenge of influencing a change in a historic obligation that they considered ineffective for the future of their country. Without detracting from effort countries must make to guarantee education rights for the poor, they preferred to focus their efforts on a reality that directly affects them.
“Climate change is a threat to our future. Young people are willing to take on the challenge of fulfilling our social work committed to tasks that contribute to the protection of the environment”, says Catalina Ramos, President of Social Educational Work (TES) 2019 at AST.
The approach headed by this student in her senior year, and endorsed by her classmates, led her to present a proposal to change the social educational pro- gram to the authorities of the Honduran Ministry of Education. It focused on transferring the mandatory work hours to tasks related to environmental education and climate change.
Various regulations had made the work of thousands of young students a mandatory component of the literacy and school care plan that the country had established. The proposal orchestrated by the American School represented the acceptance of change that had been requested for several years by some high schools and educational experts.
The initiative presented to Ms. Arely Argueta, Director of Education, Communication and Health of the Ministry of Education was well received by the authorities. The change in the orientation of their Social Educational Work was approved, and the mandatory literacy approach was cancelled, allowing the reorientation of these working hours towards the environment.
Obtaining this approval proved a challenge for student leadership. At AST, Catalina promoted the establishment of an agreement with the Ecological Foundation of Tegucigalpa. Among others tasks, the Foundation is in charge of the development and protection of the Juana Laínez Park, the largest public green area of the capital city. Thanks to the support and financing provided by the Embassy of Japan, the Foundation carries out extensive works of reforestation, plan- ting, nursery breeding and application of climate change adaptation and mitigation techniques, an issue which is deeply affecting the country.
Accompanied by two of their professors, every Saturday TES students work and receive technical assistance from environmental engineers and agronomists. They comply with their work hours in an activity that they value and believe in. “The damage caused by pollution affects our future”, Catalina Ramos continues. “This is an opportunity to commit our- selves, learn and transmit that protecting the environment is everyone’s task. By the end of the day we are tired, burned by the sun and sore from work, but never bored. We are making an effort for something we believe in. Protecting our planet.”
The president of the Ecological Foundation of Tegucigalpa, Luisa Ma- ría Willingham, highlights the valuable contribution and commitment of these young students towards climate change, as well as the effort made by the TES 2019 generation of the American School. “The contribution of young people who do their jobs well is unmeasurable. They are an inspiration that captivates other schools. We have discovered all the creative potential these kids have by collabo- rating with programs such as the Water Harvest or the Recycling Center.”
“It is very important for the Foundation to attract volunteers to tasks related to the environment. For years we have
been promoting a volunteer program committed to environmental initiatives within the park and their effort makes it possible to replicate and multiply these tasks. This is an excellent initiative that we hope more young people will imitate.”
The foundation is formed and supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Industries of
Tegucigalpa, the Honduran Association of Financial Institutions, the Association of Architects, the Association of Civil Engineers, the City Council of the Central District and Rotary clubs, among other institutions. It has been an effort of hundreds of people, with the support of Honduran companies, organizations of the Honduran public sector, the international cooperation of Taiwan and the Embassy of Japan.
Carlos Castillo, co-president of TES 2019 at AST, believes that students involved in Social Educational Work can dedicate their hours to promote initiatives linked to climate change that motivate them, performing an impactful works in the park that the Foundation manages. “The motivation to dedicate hours to environmental education is
natural because these are issues that really matter to us”. The experience is testament to the commitment of a group of high school students who transformed a curricular obligation into an opportunity to provoke change. It highlights the values of an idealistic generation committed to their beliefs, puts them in practice, and assumes the challenges of changing the conditions that will allow them to create a better future.