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Garifuna 101 » Bilingual Intercultural Education in Classrooms--An Elusive Goal
Mar 04, 2005

Part 1 of 2

Bilingual Intercultural Education (EBI) has been a demand of Honduran Indians and Blacks since the early 1990´s- This program would include the teaching of both Spanish and the language of the ethnic groups such as Garifuna, Miskito, Pech or in the case of the Bay Islands English. It also includes the teaching of the history and culture of the ethnic groups in the public school where these ethnic groups are the majority of the students.

For 5 ethnic groups bilingual intercultural education was approved in 1992. In 1994 it became the law for all the indigenous ethnic groups with the ratification of the Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization by the Honduran Congress. In spite of this, for most ethnic groups this project is not in the classrooms.

This is not caused by the lack of personnel assigned to the project. At least 8 people have worked full time at the national level since 1994, when the Honduran government established PRONEEAH (The National Program for the Education of Autochthonous and Afro-Antilleans of Honduras. This program, located in Tegucigalpa, carries out the implementation of this program and has at least one representative of each ethnic group. There are also departmental representatives of bilingual education who work full time for this program.

Over the last 10 years, the program has paid some consultants to develop a few bilingual materials for them. These include 2 books to read and write Pech, a Garifuna-Spanish dictionary, a Garifuna grammar book, a book to read and write Miskito and another to read and write too, the language of the Tolupanes or Xicaues. Sometimes these books were sent out to schools and sometimes they just sat in warehouses.

The teachers were never trained to use any materials except a special Tawahka teacher training program sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and the UNAH. But the graduates of this program were not hired for Tawahka schools. National schedules were not changed so no time was set aside to teach in the native language.

When consultants from Guatemala were hired, they made some very concrete observations. First there would be no bilingual education until there were trained teachers. Second, the national curriculum was still law with no guidance to the teacher how to implement intercultural education.

In 2004 strong progress was made. The ethnic groups were able to convince the Ministry of Education and the teacher unions to allow a program to train members of the ethnic groups as bilingual intercultural teachers.

Last year 120 candidates chosen by the ethnic groups, including Bay Islanders, went through a course called “Nivelación? where the students received training equivalent to “plan básico? (grades 7,8, and 9) of Honduran junior high school education. Now in February 2005 these members of the ethnic groups will enter Normal Schools (grades 10, 11, and 12) to be trained as teachers.

The other advances are the writing of the new national intercultural education curriculum which will enter into effect in February 2005. Now teachers in the ethnic areas can be legally required to teach the history and culture of the ethnic groups.

Although great strides have been made, serious problems remain. None of the teachers or the Supervisors has been trained in how to implement an intercultural curriculum. Not one piece of support material for students or reference books for teachers have been produced. This will seriously hamper implementation.

For the teacher training program, the same problem exists. The Normal School teachers have no idea what bilingual intercultural education is. They can not teach what they do not know. No teacher training materials were developed for them.

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