Social Education 58(7), 1994, p. 440
National Council for the Social Studies

A Central American Perspective on Teaching about the United Nations

Eleonora Ordonez

The UN Presence in Honduras is Considerable. . .
The United Nations actively participates in improving living conditions in our country. Agencies of the UN are well represented in Honduras. Help is given to the country in many areas, with much emphasis placed on improving the educational opportunities and physical welfare of our children. Most of the work of the UN in our country is oriented toward underprivileged groups in our society.
The work that the UN does with our school children and educational system is always channeled through our Ministry of Education. One area of UN work is that of teacher training. In our country we have problems with the quality of some teachers; with UN assistance this situation has been dramatically improved. The UN is very respectful of our government and does not impose its presence upon us in any way. From 1987 to 1991, Honduras received approximately $20 million in help from the UN through its many programs.

Honduras and our neighboring country of El Salvador had a big disagreement for many years over the exact location of the border between the two countries. This disagreement even led to military confrontations. The case was brought to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which rendered a decision accepted by both countries. This was a unique opportunity for our students to see the work of the UN in keeping peace and resolving conflict between countries.

One of the programs of the UN in Honduras deserving special note is the program oriented toward women (UNIFEM). Women are being incorporated into the development process of the country and can therefore help themselves and their children to become productive individuals for our country, which so desperately needs to improve.

. . . But Learning Is Superficial
Considering the extent of the UN's work in Honduras, the teaching of the UN in the Macris School (a private, bilingual, urban school) barely goes beyond basic information such as where the UN is physically located, when it was founded, its purpose, its member countries, languages spoken in the UN, and permanent UN programs such as those in agriculture, education, development, and population.

In the school curriculum, the issue of human rights and the important role and constant effort of the UN to keep world peace is highlighted. Students are taught about the importance of respecting human rights in every aspect of social interactions. They learn about the most prominent international agencies in our world. Some of the most familiar agencies to them are the UN with all of its programs, the Organization of American States, and the Pan American Union. Students are taught the importance of having an agency such as the UN in order to ensure peace and friendship among nations. They are made aware of projects that the UN has in our country in order to improve nutrition and health, peace, and human rights.

Unfortunately, however, all of this learning takes place at a superficial level. Students do not know enough about the huge efforts made by these agencies to ensure better living conditions for thousands of human beings in all parts of our continent. Students in the Macris school many times do not see the actual programs because most of the programs are located in rural or marginal areas. Programs sponsored by the UN such as refugee resettlement, basic nutrition, and care giving or providing water to communities are not publicized. Many of these projects are not recognized as important by our students because these children do not lack these basic services themselves. More needs to be done to help our students appreciate and support these efforts and work together on improving conditions for all.

Eleonora Ordonez teaches at the Macris School, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.