Rebuilding schools and the infrastructure for a sound education system as you known is a big undertaking in Haiti right now. Jonathan Katz, writing for the Huffington Post, reports on glimmers of hope in the earthquake’s aftermath:
“This is an opportunity in a lifetime to radically change the educational system in Haiti,” said Marcelo Cabrol, head of the Inter-American Development Bank’s education division. “We want to be aggressive.”
The problems are monumental: Just one in 10 Haitian teachers is a qualified educator, according to the IADB – and a third have not even completed ninth grade. The government is unable to support more than a handful of schools, leaving the system dominated by fly-by-night, for-profit storefront schools whose onerous fees and other costs keep half of Haiti’s children from enrolling at any given time.
Buildings were so unsafe that one school collapsed on its own in 2008, a year and three months before the quake, killing 100 students and adults.
Wealthy Haitians and foreigners opt out entirely, putting their children in upscale schools that cost some $8,000 per year – more than most Haitians will spend on food and basic necessities in 20 years.
Education advocates see a chance for a fresh start.
Celebrities like Shakira, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban have pledged money to rebuild individual schools and prominent U.S. educators are volunteering to help restructure the system.
Paul Vallas, a former Chicago and Philadelphia superintendent working to rebuild Louisiana’s storm-ravaged Recovery School District, is working with the IABD, researching ways to build hurricane- and earthquake-resistant buildings in Haiti and create a unified Creole-language curriculum to improve math, reading and other skills.
“We benefited from the generosity of others and we almost feel there’s an obligation for us to the same,” Vallas told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from New Orleans.
The IADB has also reached out to Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp proposing a program for Haiti that would train and employ teachers, drawing from some of the estimated 35,000 university students who lost their classrooms, as well as Haitian diaspora and others overseas.
Education officials know they have limited time to act. The education ministry is eyeing an early April return.
“A country can’t function without education. We can’t have our children in the streets,” said Laguerre, who attended Catholic schools in Haiti and earned advanced degrees in Paris and Montreal.