"You stand where you sit."
Somebody famous said that (or must have). By the way, please tell me if you know who it was...
It is funny how fundamental a change in venue is to a change in perspective. From the patio of our Roatan vacation rental, overlooking the Caribbean, it is hard not be thankful for all that you have in life. And it is easy to see how we take so much for granted in our day-to-day existence.
Take Education, for Example
We have four, fantastic kids between the ages of nine and fifteen. They go to a great school. They are good students. They have smart and caring teachers. Their teachers come to work on time. They have experienced and competent administrators. The facilities are top-notch. They have functioning bathrooms. Lunch is served daily. Classes run for the full period. There are certain standards that must be met to move on to the next level. With all of this, most North American parents rightly feel that, if they send their kids to school and keep after them to do their homework and get good grades, then when they graduate, they will be prepared for the next big thing in their lives - whether that is university or a job. Makes sense… where we live.
Wake Up Call
As it turns out, Roatan has great kids, too. That, unfortunately, is where the similarity ends. That is not to say that the kids aren't or couldn't be good students, or that there are no smart, caring teachers. Of course there are. But in comparison to a more developed economy/country, Honduras, generally, and Roatan, more specifically, have significantly "challenged" education systems. The statistics (admittedly a little dated now) are shocking:
- Roatan has almost 40,000 school-aged children (grades K-12)
- 75% of them do not attend school
- 50% of those who do attend school do not make it past Grade 6
- Grade 12 enrollment is 87% less than Grade 1 enrollment despite the fact that the population is growing 4% annually
This data is all part of a Roatan Education Commission report entitled "Vision 2020: Education Development Plan", published in May, 2008. The report not only describes the then current state of the education system (which I am told has changed little), but also attempts to identify root cause issues for its state and suggest strategies for improvement.
Making a Difference
Not surprisingly, a lot of people on and off the island are touched/concerned/saddened by the situation and are working together on a range of projects to make things better for Roatan's kids. Three of these organizations are PIER (Partners in Education Roatán), the Roatan Day Care Center and SOL International Foundation.
PIER is a multifaceted organization on a mission to improve the economic development of the island and the quality of life of its people by ensuring the excellence of education. They have embodied this mission in the pursuit of seven key goals that are crucial to the success of the education system for Roatan:
- Encourage education beyond the 6th grade
- Create a better educated local workforce
- Generate a supply of qualified education staff
- Emphasize island culture and Spanish and English learning
- Encourage community involvement and pride
- Effectively use technology
- Ensure a place in school for every child
The Roatan Day Care Center is self explanatory: it gives working parents a safe place to send their very young children so they can earn a living, and in so doing, frees the older children to attend school instead of staying home with younger siblings.
SOL International is "working to initiate and support community-based programs designed to promote education and increase the quality of life in developing areas". These initiatives take the form of community centers, after-school programs and organized sports instruction and play. Both of these latter two organizations are independent, 501(c)(3), non-profit charities and all donations made to them are US tax deductible. All three are run by good people, and their books are open.
How You Can Help
If you take a Roatan vacation, feel free to give them a ring or shoot them a note. They always welcome visitors/volunteers and can share many ideas on ways you can help - from bringing old school backpacks full of no longer used books and school supplies to dropping off some old baseball gloves and pitching a half hour of batting practice.
It's a great break from watching the clouds go by, a chance to give back a bit and an opportunity to expand your vista. Because from where I sit, we honestly don't know how good we have it.
Leave us a comment below with your thoughts.