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The Start of School in Port au Prince print story
September 14, 2011
International Disaster Volunteers, United Kingdom
Here in Port au Prince, school will be starting again soon. It’s a time of excitement for many children, as they get their uniforms and school supplies. But their joy is bittersweet because more than half of Haitian children who will not have the chance to go to school this year.
In Haiti, children do not yet have the benefit of free, universal education. UNICEF estimates that only 18% of children attend free, government run schools. The other 82% are left attending private schools. These schools are unregulated, meaning that they range from high quality facilities, to a “school” only in name where children do not even learn to read.
But whatever the quality, they all charge the students. Even if they wanted to allow children to attend for free, without another source of income this would leave the schools unable to pay teachers. Schools do not charge what we would consider huge amounts – generally between $150 and $300 a year. However, as more than half of Haitians live on less than $1.25 a day even this seemingly modest fee can be out of reach.
As a direct result, almost half of Haitians are illiterate. At EDV, these dire statistics and constant requests from the community, have led us to focus on education. We’ve tackled the issue from multiple angles: English Education for adults, health education, scholarships, and classroom construction.
All of these programmes are going extraordinarily well. We recently asked the English students to tell us how English was changing their lives. Their answers are truly inspiring – you can read them here.
Our scholarship programme does not yet have enough funding to support the 100 children that we aim to sponsor all the way through primary school, but we hope it will soon. And our health education classes are making a marked difference in the health of the 100 orphans who make up the programmes core.
But in all this excitement, at the moment it’s classroom construction that is drawing most of our attention. School will open in just a few short weeks and we’re hustling to complete the construction of five permanent classrooms at a local school called Institution Classique and as many transitional classrooms as we can manage at College Adonai.
It’s always really exciting for us to be able to support great Haitian led institutions like the Classique School and College Adonai. Before EDV even started thinking about coming to Haiti, Institution Classique’s director, Jean Louis, allowed orphaned children to attend school for free.
The earthquake closed several of the school’s classrooms, limiting Jean Louis’ ability to provide space for children who cannot afford to attend school, but he still allows ten children to attend for free.
Without regulation, there are many schools in Haiti which take advantage of families without means, charging them high fees for a poor quality education, or which are simply unable to meet children’s needs. But Institution Classique and College Adonai are not among them. They are high performing, low cost schools, and their value cannot be overstated.
The directors and teachers of these excellent schools have been working hard to provide a quality education for children who need it most since before EDV directors even began thinking about coming to Haiti, and it’s an honour to support their efforts.
Here on the ground, we know that the investments we make in schools like Institution Classique and College Adonai’s classrooms will translate into a spot in school for hundreds of children who would otherwise never have the chance at an education. We hope that all of those who donated to the construction of those classrooms take comfort in the fact that their funds have purchased much more than just sand and cement – they’ve laid the foundations for a better tomorrow.