Haiti: Rebuilding education
According to the UN, the earthquake in Haiti killed around 230,000 people, made a million people homeless and leveled many schools. The response to one of history’s worst humanitarian disasters was huge. But was it enough? We assess how education is recovering in Haiti.
Universities picking up the pieces
Three years ago, in just 35 seconds, life changed completely for people in Haiti. The education system, such as it was, was razed to the ground. It destroyed the majority of the buildings housing higher learning institutions in and around the capital, Port au Prince.
The Forgotten Ones
At lunchtime in Port au Prince, while many children are on their way home from school, many others are still fending for themselves on the streets. UNICEF estimates that even before the earthquake around 1.2 million children in Haiti were living in poverty and subject to physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Many of them are runaways.
Pierre Vanneur, the Minister of Education said: “We are currently opening centres to house children who find themselves living on the street. Educating these children isn’t the same as educating children in normal schools. They need special attention because they’ve lived such abnormal lives. They are children but they’re like adults in some ways. Right now, we have a complete programme to look after them, ensure their development and their integration back into society.And that’s the work we’re currently doing. By the end of this government’s term, there will be no more children living on the streets. There won’t be a single child without a place at school, without access to the education system.”
There are around 4,000 children living on the streets in Port au Prince.
In Port au Prince, the NGO Fokal, (Foundation for Knowledge & Liberty), has built a memorial to honour the victims of the 2010 earthquake. Some 30.000 people live in this area. Michele Pierre Louis, a university professor, and president of the Fokal foundation, thinks education is vital for Haiti’s future. She said “The majority of schoolchildren here do not receive a good quality education. How can we build resources in this country, how can people develop critical judgement, become whole citizens, and participate in the social and economical growth of Haiti?”
In Haiti education is highly valued but resources are scarce. Since its foundation in 1995, Fokal priorities has been providing resources including teacher training, building schools, cultural activities, community libraries and scholarships.
Fokyl organises weekly debates for young people in 14 centres across the island. And since 1999, 100 students have received study grants.