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Monday, August 22, 2011

Education in Haiti: Universal Education for No One

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Haiti was recently ranked as having the 145th worst system of education in the world out of the 169 countries represented in the report.  As the country prepares for the 2011-2012 school year it seems to me, in my humble opinion, that the system of education in Haiti is progressing nowhere.  The original start date presented by the Ministry of Education was September 5th.  Now, however, I hear that it has been moved to September 12th, and the rumor mill has it that the schools will not actually open until the first week of October, at the earliest.  Why?  Why after more than a year since the devastating earthquake can’t schools open on time?  The answer is: POLITICS!

First, Haiti still does not have a Prime Minister.  President Martelly is more than 100 days into his presidency, and after having 2 candidates rejected by the Haitian legislative body, a third candidate has yet to be named.  With no Prime Minister in place, no one wants to make any final decisions about what direction the Haitian system of education should take.

Second.  President Martelly wants to implement a program that selects, at a minimum, 100,000 children that cannot afford school fees (charged by both public and private schools) and provide scholarships for these students to attend school.  Unfortunately, from what I can understand, and maybe others can bring enlightenment to what little I do understand about this proposal, there has yet to be a determination about how these students would be selected, what schools they would attend, and where the teachers would be found for this additional rise in student enrollment.  So, while the government tries to figure out how all this will work, the rest of the student population in Haiti is waiting.  We are sacrificing the education of millions of children, for that of 100,000.  There must be a balance here, and this certainly is not it.

I strongly advocate for universal education for all children in Haiti, as stipulated in the Haitian Constitution.  However, there is nothing worse for a system of education than to flood it with students, putting them into schools that are ill-equipped to house them, or placing them with teachers that are ill-equipped to provide instruction.  I disagree that it is better to have students in school, even if they are not learning, than to have no school at all.  Instead, a comprehensive approach to reaching universal education for all must be created whereby a system of educating teachers, creating seats for students, and selecting communities where government-run schools are most needed are the priorities.  Read this article by Charles Kenny that elaborates on this topic and argues for the creation of a quality system of education prior to implementing universal education for all.

Until schools finally open we continue to make preparations for the Education Program for Street Children and the orphans in our care receive daily instruction in Kreyol, French, and English.  We wait for the day that they can return to school for another successful academic year.


Steven Kirby, Ed.D

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