May 18th is ‘Flag Day’ and ‘University Day’ in Haiti. It’s a day to celebrate the courage of Haitians in overcoming colonialism and a moment to call for action by government and donors on the pressing education challenges we face.
Access to education is cherished by Haitians and most parents especially female headed households go to great lengths to provide schooling for their children.
But the sad truth is, that as a nation we are short-changing Haiti’s children and undermining the capacity of our future leaders by failing to invest properly in education.
No place in school
An estimated 50% of primary school age children are not enrolled in school and have no access to even the most basic education facilities, and do not have any hope of ever getting to the University.
University educations seems to be a very important step in Haiti that “University Day” is celebrated together with the “Flag Day” which is the symbol of the Haitian nation.
Basic education is guaranteed to every Haitian child in Haiti’s constitution but the Government of Haiti has not fulfilled this commitment to the citizens.
No state standards
No visible efforts are being made by government to regulate the public and private schools or to ensure that common standards are met when it comes to quality of teaching or school infrastructure and safety.
A huge shortfall in public (state) schools has given rise to numerous private schools of varying standards with no government regulation or attempt at standardisation.
No one really knows the exact numbers of private primary schools in the country, not even in the capital Port Au Prince.
The curriculum used in Haiti’s upscale private schools is different from that used in the lowest income private school which in turn is different from that used in the rural Departments (States).
Children from the most deprived backgrounds often start school in later years or work to earn a living at the same time as pursuing an education. For them, the lack of education standards means that - if they make it to school - their progress is hindered by inappropriate curriculum and absence of teaching aides.
With no state standards, accountability of Haiti’s schools to the children, parents and society is sorely lacking.
Girls and boys who have attended school for seven years, paid for out of megre family resources, are frequently left ill-prepared for national exams.
In response, some organisations and community groups are taking action to equip parents and children with knowledge of their rights and to develop models for community participation in school governance.
But despite best efforts by civil society, the gap between the rich and the poor can never be bridged by a system that guarantees better quality education to a few citizens and substandard education to the majority.
That’s why ActionAid and partners are also pushing for government action.
Call for government action
Je Nan Je (Eye to Eye), a platform of peasants movements supported by ActionAid describes the education situation as “an infringement on the rights of the children of Haiti and a disservice to the future of Haiti”.
Je Nan Je states that: “The government has the power – and the responsibility – to regulate quality of education in Haiti to ensure that an acceptable curriculum is developed and used across all schools in Haiti irrespective of whether they are private or public, high or low class”.
The Government of Haiti must commit adequate budget to build public schools across the country and to ensure that standards are upheld in both public and private schools to guarantee quality education.
On this Flag Day and University Day, Jen Nan Je and ActionAid are calling on the government to take concrete efforts to improve quality of education in Haiti otherwise there will be no students qualifying for University in future.
Je nan Je and ActionAid are calling on the government to:
- Harmonize and regulate the basic education curriculum in public and private schools.
- Guarantee the right to every Haitian child to free and quality education.
- Ensure adequate infrastructure in all basic schools including classrooms and separate toilets for girls and boys.
- Improve quality of education by employing qualified teachers and provide training for teachers.
- Guarantee safe and non-violent environment for learning especially for girls.
- Make provisions in the curriculum for children to be taught their rights and to be involved in school governance
- Employ all measures to improve learning outcomes including provision of relevant teaching aids.
- Make school governance transparent, accountable and participatory.