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Education in Haiti

I am Berlande Virgille, the Field Officer in JEN Haiti. I have been working with JEN since 21 January 2010, about one week after the earthquake that devastated my country. Today I would like to describe one of my biggest concerns: the challenges of the educational system in Haiti.


The educational system in Haiti is characterized by significant exclusion and structural deficiency. Education cost remains high in proportion to Haitian family revenues. About 40 percent of low income families have difficulty to have access to school, especially in rural areas. Public schools only cover 10 percent of the total demand for basic education. In addition, parents must pay school fees to enroll their children in the public school system.

In general, the academic year begins in October and ends in July. With two vacations at Christmas and Easter holidays, the number of hours in the school year is considerably reduced. Certain parents can afford to pay for private lessons for their children to cover for the reduced hours, but they are the minority. .

French remains the language of instruction in the private schools, but Creole and French are used in the public schools.

The textbooks also have always been a concern. Mostly imported, they are often
in short supply and their price, like all imported products, can be impossible for families who
must strive to put food on the table. Many children go to school without books. In addition, the books are not adapted to the Haitian environment. The Haitian system of education is heavily influenced by the French counterpart.

The efforts of Haitian governments to educate their people may seem sincere but, so
far, they have not yielded remarkable results. A serious reform in order to treat education as a true instrument of progress and development. Education does not appear to be
focused on the specific needs of the country. From the outset, the orientation taken by the
Administration of public education had nothing to do with the reality of Haiti except for the
fact that it served the particular interest of an elite who send their children to study in France
and considered themselves French.

Finally, what I see is the Education in Haiti is a business. For some of the schools, the
objective is clearly more directed towards making money than towards educating children, and
often the classes are overfilled and the teachers are unqualified. Among the schools in the private sector we found the very best and the very worst of what the Haitian education sector
has to offer. We find a category of well reputed elite schools, what Haitians call”Lekol Tet
Neg”. Most of them are religiously founded and almost all of them are urban-based. They are well equipped, have the best teachers, and are the obvious choice for the privileged families who would never consider sending their children to a public school. In Port-au-Prince, private primary schools are found on almost every street corner. Because of its density, people call them “Lekol Borlette” meaning “Lottery schools”, named after the small lottery stands that are also found on every corner. I think that instead of making “Lekol Borlette” or “Lottery schools” we should be making more public schools where we can have qualified teachers, learning materials and suitable school buildings so more children in the street will have possibility to get an education.

Berlande Virgille
Field Officer
JEN Haiti

January 10, 2013 in Haiti |