Haitian Education

The constitution of The Republic of Haiti has provisions that allow for each child to receive an education, a free education. Therefore one would guess that there exists a public education system in Haiti.

The schools are called National Schools and there are not enough of them, they are poorly staffed and the public is despicably underserved. The past several administrations, including the current Preval administration have grossly cut the education budget until all that is left is a shadow of public education. There are times when teachers pass more than six months without pay.  Classes are over crowded, one class of third graders has 78 students, which is not uncommon.  

So many problems exist in the National Schools that people have given up on the system almost entirely. The resulting solution to such an overwhelming problem for many Haitians has been to send kids to private schools, which cost money, usually more than an average Haitian family could afford and offer something, albeit in varying degrees, better than the National Schools. Though this has increased the number of schools operating in Haiti, it has done nothing to increase the literacy rate, which, according to the CIA WORLD FACTBOOK, published in January 2010 is at a whopping 52%. This means that half of all Haitians over the age of 15 are illiterate, they cannot read nor write.

The fact that the government is mandated by the constitution, which legitimizes the Haitian Republic, to educate every child is impressive, however there is no action to execute this mandate. Nobody seems to care that half the children of Haiti are not attending school. Why are the children of Haiti left to the streets for education? The plain and simple truth is corruption.

The Haitian leadership has for decades been funneling funds earmarked for education into private bank accounts and swindling the Haitian people into a state of illiteracy. This illiteracy in itself helps the leaders to control the masses. If the Haitian people cannot read or write they are disenfranchised and must trust the words of the leaders. The power of being informed is lost on the Haitian masses, they are responding to intentional misinformation from leaders, which maintain the status quo in Haiti, a status quo of gross poverty and confusion.

The cost of sending one child to school for one year is a minimum of $200 for the year and on average, $350 which doesn’t sound like too much money except when one considers the fact that the average income for an individual Haitian is $400 per year and for a family with a double income about $1,000 per year. Clearly on an income so miniscule, one has not enough to send children to school. Obviously the need to eat is far more important than sending kids to school and for many people they do not have a choice, they have four or five kids to feed and nothing left for education. Often a family may send only one child to school or rotate kids in school for a year. For this reason the average third grade class for example may have children ranging in age from 8 to 15.

The average teacher in elementary education has only a high school diploma; in addition, there are those who have never graduated from high school and yet they are teachers in the elementary schools. A teacher salary is on average $150 per month, relatively good pay in Haitian standards. Even so, a teacher could not send all three of his or her children to school, pay the rent, buy food, and pay other living expenses, it just doesn’t add up!

The problem is grave and solutions are a dime a dozen. My humble suggestion is to pressure the Haitian government to put money into education. How does one living the US of A pressure the Haitian government, write to your congressperson and senators who control the money the US is sending in aide to Haiti. I will continue to do my best to help here on the ground in Haiti. To date we have put 13 children into school. These thirteen children have NEVER attended school before in their lives. They range in age between 8 and 12 years of age. This is no small task. We started with one child who we put into a school in the first grade. He is doing okay, but there are issues in this situation. He is the oldest in his class; he never attended school before so the norms of classroom behavior were a struggle. And frankly he has not progressed as one would hope. He has just learned to write his name after 4 months in the classroom. He clearly needs remediation and is not getting it. The other twelve have just started in a class designed and dedicated to teaching children who have never attended school before. These kids started on the 10th of January and seem to be thriving in the class with a teacher who is ready, willing and able to dedicate his lessons to children who are thirsty for education. When asked why they wanted to go to school each one answered with a firm desire to learn to read. Kids want to go to school.

I grew up right here in Palo Alto believing that education through high school is a basic human right. I believe that we as a human community owe at least a high school education to all children. Can you imagine a United States where 52% of us cannot read nor write? This is the Haitian reality 52% are illiterate! We are living in the age of information, why are there people on the planet who are disenfranchised from this information? How can we stand by and allow this? What will you do to be part of the solution, if nothing, then, you are participating in the problem; your complacency makes you complicit!

2 Responses to “Haitian Education”

  1. Wendy Thiessen says:

    I have just returned from a trip to Haiti. I can hardly wait to go back. I am desperate to find schools that are doing well in Haiti so I can see what they are doing and how it can be duplicated. What text books? What lesson plans etc… We have already interviewed teachers to fill position in the 6 schools we are rebuilding. Most don’t have textbooks themselves let alone one for each child. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Any ideas where I can go from here?