September 8, 2016:
International Literacy Day, HaitiNational literacy day is the PERFECT day to re-think how we respond to poverty. Haiti’s literacy rate is 64% for males and 57% for females. Nearby Latin American and other Caribbean boast a whopping 92% literacy rate.
Why the big difference?
- 50% of Haitian children do not attend school
- 30% of children who do attend school, won’t see third grade
- Another 60% abandon school before sixth grade
- Very few Haitians 25 or older attend secondary school much less college or vocational school
Now add in this: almost 80% of Haiti’s teachers don’t have training and lack basic qualifications. 90% of primary schools are non-public and managed by communities, religious organizations or NGOs – so there are no standards or oversight. Curriculum is outdated where books are few and dissemination is oral repetition.
Sit in on one week of “school” in Haiti and the stats start to make sense.
It’s a sad, sad situation.
So what to do?
Teaching children how to read and write is important as is training teachers to facilitate engaging curriculum. Access to books, paper & pens are required.
That said, focusing on schools isn’t enough and maybe shouldn’t be the first move (teachers are ill-prepared, the curriculum is lacking & supplies slim).
Moreover, if there are few employment opportunities for children when they graduate, then really, what’s the point? Moreover, if a child in spite of the odds, excels in school, too many Haitian families encourage educated children to leave, so they may earn a good living in the U.S. and send money back to Haiti. $1.5 billion annually is sent in remittances from Diaspora living mostly in the U.S. and Canada. This brain drain is apparent as Haiti is in desperate need of skilled leaders who are invested in their own country. Most of the bright and bushy tailed flee Haiti at the first possible chance.
There’s hope: Building rural economies in Haiti through agriculture is twice as effective as any other form of support (yep, including schools). This makes sense in the short-run: prop up the farmers, let them put their own food on the table because it promotes dignity. Money in their pockets allows them to pay their own kid’s tuition; this makes them really value school. In nations like Haiti, farming employs over 60% of the people. If is agriculture is alive and thriving, children will pursue it (they don’t currently). As rural prosperity grows, so does the creation of smaller businesses through local entrepreneurs. This brings about more money to train better teachers and with better equipment (books included).
It’s a big task but unless we start asking the right questions and dealing with a multidimensional, messy and difficult solution, then Haiti will become an endless check-writing campaign, and eventually, donor attention will fade.
What do you think?