Our school in Honduras has seen its most difficult year. Please help us maintain good standards of education!

On 11th March 2020 the WHO classed the spread of Corona Virus as a pandemic. Honduras is one of the counties which reacted swiftly and drastically to this decision. On 14th March the country introduced a complete lockdown which prohibited people from leaving their homes, expect for visiting hospitals and chemists. For Escuela Lyoness this meant that all their lessons had to be moved to a home-schooling environment within a very short time frame. At the beginning of the new school year on 1st March we met with our project manager on site, Barbara Sickenberger, to discuss how the last twelve months have gone.

We interviewed Barbara Sickenberger, our project manager in Honduras and she explained to us how difficult it has been for our pupils over this last year.


Barbara, the Escuela Lyoness has had a difficult year. What were the biggest challenges which you had to face?

The sudden introduction of distance learning presented teachers all over the world with huge challenges. In developing countries like Honduras, the hurdles which must be overcome are so much higher than those in European countries, for example. For the most part, our pupils come from very impoverished backgrounds and have no access to Internet at home.


Did you intend for parents to teach their children themselves?

Honestly? That was never an option, no. Many of our pupils come from the poor surrounding areas of La Ceiba. Their parents have often never gone to school themselves and, in some families, our pupils are the only ones in their family who can read and write. The education which they receive here at the Escuela Lyoness is for many the only way out of the poverty trap which their families have often been caught in for generations.


How did the teachers deal with the challenges?

Once we had got over the initial shock, our teachers managed to find bespoke solutions to ensure that every child could be reached out to in some way. Very few of our pupils have access to a computer, but some of them do have access to a smartphone at home or can at least be taught over the phone. The teachers spent hours on WhatsApp or on the phone with the pupils, to answer their questions, explain new material or talk to parents. The biggest problem we had was reaching out to the 40% of our pupils whose families don’t even have a phone.


How did the pupils respond to the developments of the last few months?

Our pupils have performed so well despite these huge challenges. As I already mentioned, most of them come from very poor families. For them, this period is particularly difficult. In addition to being afraid of the virus, in many cases, parents have lost jobs due to the measures introduced to fight the Corona Virus. Some families ran out of money for food very quickly. Others couldn’t pay the rent on their flats and so became homeless in the middle of the pandemic and they had no choice but to move in with friends and family.


What does the school urgently need to ensure that it can support its students in the best possible way?

As I’ve already mentioned, many of our pupils don’t have access to Internet at home. They are sent their schoolwork as printouts, but they then must teach and understand the material themselves. Our beneficiaries already have so many challenges to face in their young lives, teaching themselves shouldn’t be one of them. Which is why the school would like to purchase spartphones for all the children so that they can get involved in the online lessons at home.


Has the school received any state support during this difficult time? What is to do next?

At the outset of the crisis, we hoped that we would receive some financial state support but sadly this was not the case. We have the donors of the Child and Family Foundation to thank for the resources we used to teach our pupils over the last year.

We're planning to open the school again and introduce a "pilot project" which involves the children attending school in groups of ten and only once they have undergone a rigorous sanitation procedure.

Barbara, Honduras

Barbara Sickenberger, project manager