Unequal opportunities at school in Haiti worsened by virus

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Five km away, a school has a stadium, tennis and basketball courts, another has no water in its establishment: in the capital of Haiti, the inequalities of the country’s education system America’s poorest are exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizing recreation areas while ensuring that students respect physical distancing will be possible in Saint-Louis de Gonzague. The congregational institution has 13 hectares of land in the heart of the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.

After four months of suspension due to the coronavirus epidemic, the some 2,000 boys educated in this more than a hundred-year-old establishment are not, moreover, in an emergency to resume classes because educational continuity has been ensured by the teaching team.

“We managed to complete the year: the evaluations were done every Friday online,” explains Brother Valmyr-Jacques Dabel, who has run Saint-Louis for two years.

Yet, just five kilometers away, the reality experienced by the staff of the Tabarre public school is at odds with the educational experience of the Catholic brothers.

No water in the WC

Organized around a small playground, five of the establishment’s thirteen rooms are separated only by simple plywood walls. The surrounding wall, temporarily built after the 2010 earthquake does not protect all the students from the rain or the sun.

Pandemic obliges, the number of teaching hours per child planned from Monday has been reduced to allow work-study, and respect for social distancing.

“If we see the area of ​​this room, by forcing, we put 60 children but, with distance standards, barely 20 can hold,” calculates Lucien Jean-François in front of the aging furniture stamped Unicef.

These obstacles to learning and the noise pollution coming from the air corridor above his establishment do not worry Mr. Jean-François so much as the epidemic context.

International donors have indeed built a sanitary block up to standards but the director’s verdict is final: “there is no water in these toilets because the pump is unusable. So imagine all our students, teachers and supervisors … ”he calls out.

While the authorities are calling for regular hand washing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, this public school where 1,600 students are educated has only one manual pump at the entrance of the establishment.

His reports sent to the academic inspectorate and to the partners who financed the work did not lead to the repair of the electrical equipment covered by the dust.

The principal smiled at the irony at the three computers offered by a Haitian politician to his school.

“We are well connected to the electrical circuit but it is never supplied by the company”, laughs Lucien Jean-François. “So I’m not ashamed to say that some teachers don’t even know how to turn on a computer, so to see to work with the students”, he sighs.

“Since March, the children have not had a course. Online work stories are for congregational schools, for parents who can afford and can provide children with computer equipment. Here we can not. “

Tablet or computer are required work tools at the start of the Catts Pressoir college.

For a decade, the establishment has integrated robotics and computer programming into its curriculum, while working to reduce the inequality of opportunity among young Haitians.

Online courses for all

“We are going to seek funding to equip schools, in the most remote corners (…) and we are fighting with internet providers to offer education preferential rates”, militates Guy Etienne, director of the establishment of Port-au-Prince.

The physical closure of his establishment imposed by the Covid-19 has never caused an interruption in educational activities.

Since the fall, when political riots paralyzed the Haitian capital, the teaching team has used a digital platform, available on a computer or via the school’s smartphone application, to publish videos of their lessons and show them. controls.

A digital education that Guy Etienne wishes to make available to a greater number of children in the country.

“A success as long as it remains local has no value: a success must be globalized and our dream is to transform Haiti into a learning territory so that all children have the same opportunities” hopes the director.

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