Jan 25, 2011


Haiti Children Return to School

  • Jan 25, 2011
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  • The playful chanting of whole sentences, occasionally erupting into laughter, belies the difficult teaching enviroment at Milome Brierre elementary where dozens of first graders are learning to read in a makeshift classroom.

    Haiti's massive earthquake disrupted classes across Port-au-Prince after toppling schools and leaving many families without the means to support their kids' education in tuition-based Haitian schools. Thousands of children have since resumed their basic education by returning safely to class, thanks to the World Bank-supported Education for All program, which currently provides tuition waivers to 180,000 children in its continuing pursuit of universal access to free education across the Caribbean nation. The Bank's education initiative also includes providing free meals to 80,000 school children and supporting training programs to address teacher shortage in Haiti.

    80,000 school children receive free meals and 180,000 tuition subsidies

    Would-be teachers such as Geslene Paul, 22, benefit from this training initiative that hopes to increase the number of educators in Haiti’s school system to about 1,800 per year.

    Paul is convinced that this is the way forward for Haiti as it undertakes its long-haul reconstruction.

    “I’m studying to become a teacher because a society cannot develop without education,  which is the base of any society,” Paul said while taking a break from teaching an elementary class as part of her training program.

    Nearly three years before the earthquake, the Haitian government acknowledged the shortcomings of its education system, where more than 80 percent of schools are private and governance in the sector is poor, and unveiled its Education For All national strategy (EFA). 

    EFA received $97 million this year through co-financing by the Canadian International Development Agency, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. Those funds have provided tuition subsidies and school supplies in 1,200 primary schools in 8 of Haiti's 10 departments.

    Additionally, $11.7 million have been disbursed from the EFA multi-donor trust fund to allow over 3,000 private schools to begin functioning following the earthquake. Despite some understandable delays, Haiti should also see soon the first cohort of student-teachers trained with EFA’s funds under an accelerated program meant to improve quantity and quality of education.

    “The training is free, but after each session there are tests, and there are those who can continue and those who cannot because we are looking for competence in our teacher trainees,” according to Pierre Cadeau Morose, director of the Freres Institute of Teacher Training.

    Meantime, students finish another school day by singing a tune that encapsulates the Haitian's spirit of resilience and hope for a better future:
    "The road to the school is sometimes difficult/the road to the school seems to be impossible/but it is at school that life starts/ it also gives you your last chance/at school it is the complete happiness."

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