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5 Facts About Private Schools in Haiti

Helping Haitian Students Get Back to School


Earthquake Damage at Marketplace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 16, 2010

Earthquake Damage at Marketplace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 16, 2010

United States Navy/Wikimedia
The earthquake of January 12, 2010 destroyed most of the elementary and high schools in Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas. Rebuilding them will cost tens of millions. Since about 85% of Haitian schools are privately operated, we hope that you will use this information to help you decide where to focus your gifts for that rebuilding effort. The schools will need cash, services, talents, labor and equipment. They will need tens of thousands of textbooks, computers and uniforms, as well as enormous amounts of encouragement to get the job done.

1. Elementary Education Is Compulsory.

Elementary education is compulsory in Haiti by law. Unfortunately a variety of socioeconomic circumstances prevent more than 35% of Haitian children from receiving schooling at the primary level. Of those more than 60% drop out by 5th grade. Before the earthquake Haiti had approximately 2 million children under the age of 16. There were approximately 15,000 primary schools to service that population. Haiti spends about 1.8% of GDP on education.

2. Education Is Free and Public.

Theoretically the 1987 Constitution provides for a free, public education for Haitian children. The reality, however, is that most students, however, do not get a free public education as only 15% of the schools are run by the government. The government has never had the resources to develop a comprehensive system of education for its citizens. 85% of Haitian schools are private schools which charge fees for their services. Most of these are operated by religious institutions with the Roman Catholic Church having the most schools.

3. K-12 Education Is Unaffordable for Most Haitian Children.

The fees which families have to pay include the tuition fees, book fees, fees for supplies and uniforms. With the average annual family income less than $500 many Haitian families simply cannot afford to educate their children.

4. Haitian Children Are Taught Differently Than American Children.

The traditional Haitian educational system relies on learning by rote and memorization of facts and information. The classroom experience for most Haitian students is authoritarian and teacher-dominated. It is similar to what American students would have experienced back in the mid-20th century or earlier. Critical thinking and discussion are generally only found in schools operated by foreign institutions.

5. The Language Used in Many Schools is Creole.

Creole is generally thought of as a second class language in Haiti's class-divided society, even though it is the everyday language of most Haitians. The language of business is French. French is still widely spoken in the so-called educated and elite classes of society. Textbooks are written in French and other languages. Few textbooks are written in Creole.

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