I arrived in Port au Prince on Thursday for what is going to be an exciting week-long mission alongside Jeff Ramin, Haiti country lead for the Global Partnership for Education, and Alice Albright, CEO. Haiti joined the Global Partnership in 2008 and has received a total of US$46.1 million in grants. The focus of our trip is the basic education project—jointly financed by the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (Canada) , and GPE—known as “Education for All”.
Throughout the week we’ll be visiting schools, attending meetings and capturing moments to share with you about how the education sector is organized in Haiti. Please follow along right here on this blog for updates.
Me outside the EPT offices where the meetings were held
Dispatch 1: From Meeting Rooms to Schools
In Haiti, like in any other developing country, education is critical for poverty reduction and development. Haitian parents don’t need to be convinced about this as they spend up to 10% of their household expenses to send their children to school. The vast majority of children (90%) go to primary school. But many are over age for their grade, and too many don’t learn enough while in school.
Etzer Suplice, Responsible for the community school program of the Education for All project, and Germain Charles Volvik, Director at the directorate of support to private education and partnership, ministry of education, exchange ideas during the meeting.
In Petionville (suburb of Port au Prince), where the Education for All offices are located, 16 partners around the table worked hard to make progress, reviewing budgets, defining terms of reference, monitoring indicators, preparing workshops. The “Education for All project team” (or “EPT” as they like to call themselves) is comprised of ministry of education staff and development partners. The discussion focused on the component of the project that aims to construct 80 community-managed public schools in remote areas of Haiti where no schools currently exist.
Knock before entering, says the sign outside of the EPT meeting
World Bank colleagues, who are responsible for the supervision of project funds, facilitated the discussion which addressed many difficult questions including:
- How can a community school provide a proof of purchase when it buys a box of chalk from a small vendor?
- How to ensure that newly built schools are inspected when inspectors are busy elsewhere and unavailable?
- How to find a solution for teachers who work since the start of the school year without contract or pay and have recently gone on strike?
- Should multi-grade classes be considered to accommodate children of different ages in local communities?
- And a more pressing question: how to compensate for the loss of project funds due to the dollar appreciation?
The Minister of Education and Training, M. Nesmy Manigat (in red)
The Minister of Education and Training, M. Nesmy Manigat met with GPE country lead Jeff Ramin to discuss progress and perspectives in the Haitian education system including the ministry's measures to improve quality in the system's non-public schools, which represent 80% of the estimated 20,000 schools in the country, and to improve conditions for the country's 200,000 teachers. He indicated that currently, 16.5% of the national budget is allocated to education and that his goal is to increase this share to at least 20% in the next years.
Dispatch 2: Community Leadership Can Transform Schools
Today we traveled to Nancroix, a remote rural community not far from the border with the Dominican Republic. The community has a makeshift school set up at the top of a hill where five teachers with very little education themselves are managing the crowded outdoor classroom. But educating these children is very important to the community and they are doing whatever they can to ensure their children are learning.
This makeshift structure, used here for a community meeting, is Nancroix’s current school.
With the help of a community organizer hired by the ministry of education, the community has prepared and presented its case to the government to receive funds to build a public school in the village. The proposal was selected. One of the elders has donated a large piece of land to build the school that will eventually welcome 250 children. The next steps will be processing the land title and transferring the funds to the community before the building can start. They hope to open the school in September 2015.
René Theleusma, community organizer, helped the villagers prepare a proposal to the ministry of education to fund a new school.
The large field behind these people is where the new school will be built.
Parents everywhere want the best for their children, but I have been struck by the absolute conviction of the people of Haiti that education is essential.
Dispatch 3: Accelerated Teacher Training Benefits All
The St Martin de Porrès School in Hinche, is managed by Sister Augusta and two other nuns. The catholic school welcomes 385 students, from preschool to the end of primary. St Martin de Porrès is funded by tuition of $108 to $160 per year depending on the level and school lunches are provided by an NGO. At this school, two new teachers have benefited from the accelerated teacher training program, allowing them to become certified in just two years instead of the normal three year program. Teachers here earn 7500 gourdes per month (about $165).
Sister Augusta welcomed us to her school with a warm smile, proud to show us the classrooms and explaining how the school functions.
Marie Chelda Joseph and Ketline Rarelien are two teacher trainees working in St Martin school. Thanks to the Education for All program, they can become certified teachers faster through an accelerated track.
A 5th grade classroom at St Martin school
A girl and a boy in front of the preschool section of the school
Dispatch 4: What Are “non-public” Schools in Haiti?
Before coming to Haiti, I found it difficult to understand what was meant by the term “non-public” to describe schools here. We all understand what public schools are: educational establishments funded and managed under the authority of the government, where children receive a free education from certified teachers (in most cases). But what is a non-public school?
Haiti has around 20,000 schools, of which 80% are “non-public”. The ministry of education defines them as “schools financed by private funds and managed by one or several individuals, offering free or paying education to children”.
Ecole nationale Charles Belair (public) in Fond Verrette
Why so many non-public schools?
The reason is mostly due to the rapid demographic growth in Haiti (from 5.7 million in 1980 to more than 10 million in 2012. Source World Bank) and the inability of the public sector to keep up. The number of public schools has remained almost constant at roughly 1000 in the whole country since 1930 (figure from 2014 World Bank’s public expenditure review), so the non-public sector expanded to fill in the expanding gap.
Non-public schools cover a wide range of establishments:
- Religious schools (most are catholic and protestant) that are affiliated to a church and sometimes managed by a priest or nuns. They represented about 50% of non-public schools.
- Community schools, established and run by local groups, who have pulled resources together to ensure their children could be educated.
- For-profit schools (about 35% of non-public schools)
- “Night schools”, which are centers offering remedial classes in the evening for children who may be working during the day.
- Other forms of these options combined together, sometimes functioning in shifts or offering multigrade classes.
A weekend school offering classes in the evening (non-public) in Port au Prince
So the options are many, but the levels unequal and the monitoring difficult. Last year, the ministry of education established “12 Mesures”, twelve steps meant to improve the management of the education system. One of the measures requires all non-public schools to obtain an identity card and make improvements if needed to be more in line with public schools. A step in the right direction.
Catholic school for girls “Ecole Notre Dame de l’Espoir” (Port au Prince)
Dispatch 5: School Lunches Make a Difference
Several of the schools we visited this week provide a warm lunch to their students. Most children are fond of rice with bean sauce, a staple in Haitian cuisine. If school funds permit, the main dish can be complemented with meat, fish or eggs, and a vegetable.
Marthe Richard, Director of Ecole mixte de la Convention Baptiste de Hinche, shows us the meal her students will soon eat.
In some schools, the free lunch is made possible thanks to funding from international partners. The new GPE grant of $24.1 million allocated to Haiti will continue to fund school meals previously financed by the World Bank and AFD (Agence française de développement), through the ministry’s PNCS (Programme national de cantine scolaire – national program of school canteens). About 34,000 students will benefit from school lunches over the next two years thanks to GPE funding.
At the Ecole Mère St Alvire in Saint Marc, the food storage area is well stocked with flour, oil, vanilla, beans, herring and of course, rice.
During our tour, Kerby Jules, Director of departmental programs at the PNCS, accompanied us to check that the right processes were followed, from suppliers to schools.
Sister Lucie, Director of the St. Alvire school, talks with Kerby Jules of the PNCS. She said: “The support provided has greatly improved the quality of the food we are able to offer”.
The school feeding program is designed to provide nutritious, age-appropriate portions prepared by trained cooks. In the schools we visited, lunch time was anywhere between 9.00 am (for schools with many students and a small cafeteria that needed to operate several lunch shifts) and 12.00 pm. In small schools, students usually eat lunch at their desks.
This is the kitchen of Ecole Christ Roi in Port au Prince. The use of propane gas is atypical, most schools relying on charcoal and wood to prepare meals. The EPT program supports the use of more fuel efficient stoves like these..
Dispatch 6: An Innovative Reading Program
The Map Li manual
Map li nèt ale means “I’m reading all the way”. The program, designed and funded by USAID and the World Bank, is a new approach to teaching reading to children in their native language, creole. Typically, most schools in Haiti teach children in French, the second official language here, but we all know about the importance of teaching children in their native tongue.
The Map Li reading program provides a full course of reading instruction for the first year of school, coupled with a companion textbook. In class, the teacher receives support from a trained aide to ensure that children follow the steps closely and don’t fall behind.
One of the first lessons in the manual about the sound “a”
The objective is to test the program this school year and the next one and assess its impact compared to control schools where reading instruction remains the same. The results will be shared with the ministry of education, who will decide whether the approach can be spread to more schools and continued in second grade. The original approach is resource-intensive and Haiti’s education budget is limited, so an adapted method is tested before potentially being used in more schools.
In the College Mixte Joinvil in Port au Prince, 1st graders learn to read using the Map li nèt ale program. A teacher’s aide walks through the room to help students.