One of UHUK’s remits is educating the United Kingdom on Haitian facts, information and sharing our culture. We do this in a variety of methods from attending schools, churches, community centres and other venues with slide shows and interactive presentations.
At our events throughout the year we highlight Haitian historical figures such as Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines (Kreyol Janjak Desalin) as well as current Haitian figures such as; author Edwidge Danticat and actor Jimmy-Jean Louis who are proud Haitians who give back to our country. We are honoured to share our culture in order to provide the UK public with new sights, sounds and flavours.
Our hope is that it inspires people to visit Haiti and experience its beauty for themselves as Haiti’s tourism industry is rejuvenated.
Our Sponsored School-L’Ahadepa
L’Ahadepa School has been operating since 11th September 2006 and currently has 169 students. Headteacher Ricot Osias has been dedicated to the school from the start and is eager to help in the development of his community, where too many children are unable to attend school and achieve any kind of formal education because their parents do not have the means to provide for them.
L’Ahadepa school is a non-government community funded school which UHUK began supporting in 2009. We have sponsored children to attend the school, purchased equipment for the school and supplemented teachers’ salaries.
The Earthquake in January 2010 destroyed the church building where the school met and the children were left without a place to study. We were renting a plot of land until the end of 2015 for the children to have class. These classes were being held under a tent.
At present, there are 10 teachers and 169 pupils, most are rest-avek (children working as domestic workers or handyman for a family). Children are taught from 8.00am to 1.00pm. Additionally, they have physical education every Thursday from 2.00pm to 4.00pm.
We have purchased a piece of land in 2015, where we aim to build a 21st century school with proper sanitary facilities, canteen and appropriate classrooms.
L’Ahadepa’s school children have shown a wonderful resilience throughout the aftermath of the earthquake and are very appreciative of the opportunity to continue their learning.
Haitian education through the years
The Constitution of 1805 introduced by Emperor Jacques the First, mandated free and compulsory primary education and these begun to be built almost immediately. The situation changed, however, after Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ assassination in 1806.
In their post-assassination scramble for power, Haiti’s chiefly mulatto ruling elite were simply not interested in education for all. They rekindled their relationship with France and many sent their children there to be educated. Consequently, a comprehensive, accessible school system never developed.
Moreover, in 1860, Haiti’s ruling elite saw fit to hand over all Haitian education to the Catholic Church. This decision had clear implications for the nature of education in Haiti and is chiefly responsible for the state of affairs today:
1) Most education would be of a classical nature and of course be in the French language. The use of Kreyol would be frowned upon or even forbidden.
2) As education was not free, only those who could afford it, i.e. the ruling elite would send their children to these catholic schools.
3) The Catholic Church abhorred anything to do with traditional African/Haitian belief systems, so children would be educated to despise Vodou spirituality and even to equate it with deviltry.
Nevertheless, a few administrations have attempted to make Emperor Dessalines’ dream a reality. The last to attempt to do so were the first administration of President Rene Preval (1995 to 2000) and that of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, (2000 to 2004).
Taking advantage of the institution in 1987 of Haitian Kreyol as Haiti’s second Official Language, right alongside French, a 10-year education plan was introduced in 1997, with universal access to quality schools as its goal. The education budget was increased from 9 percent of the national budget in 1997 to 22 percent in 2000.
This paid for programs to provide school lunches, uniforms, and bus transportation for many. Moreover, in 2002 the government began a literacy campaign, delivered by 30,000 literacy monitors, armed with 700,000 literacy manuals. Overall, school attendance jumped from 20 percent in 1994 to 64 percent in 2000.
Again, just as it did in 1805, this all proved unacceptable to some important players in the drama of Haitian life and Aristide was removed from power in 2004. With him went all those bright hopes for education refom in Haiti.
Today, the majority of Haitians receive no formal education, and only a small minority are educated beyond primary school. Most education, from pre-school right up to university is private and almost totally unregulated. The sacrifices parents make daily to put their children in school sometimes beggar belief.
In all this, the Haitian Department of Education remains a virtual non-entity, even though top salaries somehow always get paid. On the other hand teachers sometimes go for months without pay and often have to take to the streets. At least the department seems to administer the production of state examinations with some regularity.
The chart below, based on a 2011 report from international group WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education), depicts the state of education today, in post-earthquake Haiti.
This following UNESCO flowchart shows the basic outline of the Haitian education system.