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L’union fait la force! Or unity equals power roughly translated from Creole. This is the national motto of Haiti, historically one of the first colonized countries to claim their independence in the Caribbean. Since then, the country has been fighting to improve their economy and establish a stable country. Political unrest and instability have been major issues throughout the country’s history. These issues affect nearly everything, from voting to the education system. As a country that rarely makes the news for anything outside of the political unrest, little is known about the education system. Below are three must-knows about the education system in Haiti.
1. Aging out of school is prevalent.
Education is highly valued in Haiti and seen as one of the most important determinants of poverty alleviation. This said, over 17% of 19-year-old Haitians are still attending primary schools, as seen in the UNESCO graph. These schools are considered the “Lekole bolet”. This essentially means “subpar education” in comparison to prestigious schools. Not many Haitians are fortunate to be able to attend school after “aging out”. These individuals often do not have the means to attend these schools and are instead taught vocational education training and hard skills.
2. Almost all schools in Haiti are private.
In 2003, 82% of all primary and secondary school students attended private, fee-based schools (MENJS, 2003). The Haitian government ranks very low in terms of public expenditure to education in comparison to the rest of the world. Nearly 90% of funding to schools are from private corporations. There has been political unrest for years in the country, making tangible educational policies and laws difficult to create and enforce. 85% of primary and secondary schools are privately owned, leaving only a few public-school options for students throughout the country (Roth, 2018). Education is considered one of the most common businesses in the country. Because of this, schools can be found on every corner in larger cities. As of 2010, Haiti had a total of 14,424 private schools and 1,240 public schools (Hoyt, 2010).
3. Haiti is a class-based society.
Class issues and struggles are prevalent in Haitian society and can be observed in the educational system. The aforementioned “Lekole bolet”, or “subpar” schools, exemplify the classist structure of wealth dictating the quality of education the Haitian student receives. The majority of these prestigious schools are owned by Haitians and can be broken down into three groups: the congregational catholic schools owned by religious congregations, the evangelical congressional schools owned by evangelical missions, and private schools owned by groups of middle class and bourgeois intellectuals. Those that are able, and fortunate enough, to afford the prestigious schools send their children to either Saint Louis de Gonzague or Mere Mariano, the two most elite schools in Haiti. Though these two schools produce the changemakers and leaders of Haitian society, most Haitians do not have the economic means to afford this educational luxury.
Attending school in Haiti is difficult due to these many access barriers. As of 2008, nearly 10% of a Haitian’s income went directly towards just textbook costs for school (Lunde, 2008). Many outside sources such as NGO’s and nonprofits subsidize the cost of attendance for students in an effort to improve access. Additionally, before a child can enter prestigious schooling, for both high and middle class, they must be tested. This testing is similar to most major country education systems, except they are school specific and pass or fail. Another barrier to education access is distance of travel. The majority of schools are several kilometers away from the rural and village areas in Port Au Prince and finding transportation to these areas is difficult. Though these schools are located in the nation’s capital, Haitian citizens are wary of sending their children to the politically unstable city.
What can we do?
Though the Haitian motto calls for unity to overcome challenges, the class-based society serves as a barrier to the education of young Haitians. It is apparent that the educational system needs to find ways to help students more easily access and navigate education. For the average individual wanting to help combat these barriers, researching education programs is a great start. Rooted in Haitian culture and modeling community-led change, Anseye Pou Ayiti (Teach for Haiti) is a program that aims to help alleviate the access barriers by recruiting and training education professionals to raise educational outcomes in underserved areas of the country. It is a company founded and operated by an all Haitian team to help students affected by these barriers. For more information about their cause visit https://anseyepouayiti.org/en/join-us/get-involved/.
Deroly, N. P. (2019). Haiti’s Education System Is Broken … By Design. Retrieved from https://brightthemag.com/haitis-education-system-is-broken-by-design-children-poverty-equity-1b97982f8a
Hoyt, B. (2010). Haiti’s Private Schools. Retrieved from https://blogs.worldbank.org/psd/haitis-private-schools
Lunde H. (2008). Youth and education in Haiti. Disincentives vulnerabilities and constraints. Retrieved from http://www.fafo.no/pub/rapp/10070/10070.pdf.
Luzincourt, K., Gulbrandson, J. (2010). Education and Conflict in Haiti. Retrieved from http:// www.usip.org/files/resources/sr245.pdf
MENJS, Direction de la Planification et de la Cooperation Externe. (2003). Recensement Scolaire. Government of Haiti.
Roth, K. (2018). World Report 2018: Rights Trends in Haiti. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/haiti