SEATTLE — Access to education has remained a challenge for many Haitian children, especially since the devastation of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. More than 100,000 Haitian children were left without schooling, and the country received minimal educational aid two weeks after the hurricane’s impact. However, restoring and improving education in Haiti has become a priority for many entities.
In December 2016, USAID awarded a $6.3 million grant to the University of Notre Dame that aims to improve Haiti’s early-grade literacy. The grant is part of a broader national campaign, Read Haiti, that will serve Haiti’s poorest children and build upon Notre Dame’s earlier literacy efforts for the country. Read Haiti uses a curriculum that includes class libraries, textbooks and teacher guides to improve children’s skills in writing and reading Haitian Creole, 95 percent of Haitians’ native language.
With the help of USAID’s grant, Read Haiti is funding efforts to train the country’s teachers and improve their training modules. Read Haiti is also working with the Ministry of Education and other partners to support Haiti’s improved literacy learning. “We are proud to support this effort to ensure Haiti’s children have the basic education skills they need to advance and, ultimately, contribute to Haiti’s progress,” says Jene Thomas, USAID Haiti’s mission director.
There are also not enough spaces for children to enroll in Haiti’s free public schools, as four out of five primary schools are private. Haiti’s private schools with even the lowest tuition are too expensive for Haiti’s poor families, especially those living in rural areas. In April 2017, the World Bank’s Education for All Project for Haiti: Phase II aims to make education accessible for these impoverished families.
The project’s objective is to support the enrollment of Haitian students in select non-public primary schools in disadvantaged areas and strengthened management of Haiti’s primary education sector. The project has financed more than 430,000 tuition waivers, allowing 6,500 disadvantaged children to attend school free of charge. Daily hot meals have also been provided to 370,000 students across 430 Haitian schools.
In October 2017, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the European Union launched a project to analyze and strengthen the management of Haiti’s education system. The project is funded for €335,000 and is intended to last seven months. “We look forward to seeing how this project can translate into concrete improvement in Haiti’s education system,” said Suzanne Grant Lewis, the director of UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning.
The Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP) also began redefining its priorities, seeking to analyze its human resources needs in order to align competent teams with Haiti’s educational challenges. This could ensure the proper functioning of Haiti’s education administration and help all of the country’s schools welcome and teach children. The challenge, however, is that 85 percent of Haiti’s schools are private and 70 percent of them are not accredited by the MENFP.
In December 2017, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) announced an $18 million project to improve the quality of, and access to, basic education in Haiti. The project will help 68,000 Haitian students, particularly those living in poor and vulnerable communities. “This project has the potential to unlock the creative, innovative and income-earning potential of a new generation,” said Daniel Best, director of CDB projects.
These efforts and projects could yield long-term success for Haiti’s education sector, providing the country’s children with more learning opportunities. The projects are also considering Haiti’s poorest children, helping their families provide them with access to education that would otherwise be unaffordable. Improving education in Haiti will be an ongoing effort for USAID, the World Bank, CDB and other entities.
– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar