Education and Adult Literacy
Issue Papers, 7 February 2003
Historically the Haitian government placed little emphasis on primary education, and even less so for children in rural area, with the first rural school established 40 years after the country’s independence. Public schools were scare and requirements for schooling, such as shoes, textbooks, school supplies, transportation, uniforms, were out of reach for the majority of children. As a result, those children fortunate to access schooling usually only reached third grade.
Haiti’s 1987 Constitution provides for schooling for all children, a concept consist with the democratic movement that swept the country at that time. President Aristide set education as a priority and set out upon his inauguration in 1991 to create conditions for all children to go to school.
After President Aristide returned to Haiti, following the three year coup d’etat period, he immediately put in place a government program that would increase the number of schools, provide support services and materials for schooling, and provided 90,000 scholarships for primary school children, who unable to access a public school, relied on private schools in their regions. 200 primary and secondary schools were eventually built or renovated and the Ministry of Education standardized primary education.
With President Aristide’s return to the presidency in 2001, his platform of Universal Schooling was implemented by dedicating 20% of the national budget to education. Renovation and construction of schools continues with the aim of providing one school in each of Haiti’s 565 communal sections. Additionally, a study was conducted to better understand what obstacles prevented rural children from accessing schooling in four major rural areas. Findings from that study created recommendations which when implemented allowed an additional 160,000 children to enter school Fall 2001.
•Created conditions which enabled an additional 160,000 children to enter school in Fall 2001;
•By end of school year 2002, 13 new public schools were created;
•Provided support services to schooling including school buses;
•Subsidized textbooks and supplies by 55% Fall 2001 and 2,275,400 textbooks subsidized by 60% in Fall 2002;
•Provided 150,000 free uniforms in Fall 2001 and again in Fall 2002;
•Breakfast and hot lunch program to reach 200,000 children school year 2002-2003;
•Installed libraries and cyber cafes in public high schools;
•Assistance with school tuition;
•57 schools renovated and 38 to be built school year 2002-2003.
Illiteracy stood at an abysmal rate of 85% while the people’s movement for literacy (or alphabetization) training was repressed by the military under the Duvalier regime. Illiteracy, one of the major obstacles to full human development, continued to handicap the majority of Haitians. Haitians remained limited to manual labor, unable to participate in tasks that required reading and writing skills, and preventing the majority from understanding documents, reading newspapers, business contracts, or their children’s school work.
President Aristide created a Secretary of State for Literacy office after his return in 1994 laying the groundwork for a national campaign.
The adult illiteracy rate currently stands between 55 to 60 percent. The government has set as one of its primary goals for Haiti’s 200th anniversary of independence in 2004 to significantly decrease the literacy rate. The linking of literacy with development motivates the population to participate in literacy centers, both in urban and rural settings. The success of this campaign will ultimately develop the nation as the poor, once they become literate, move into the business and social service sectors. Additionally, poverty reduction is achieved through literacy when, for example, parents can better participate in their child’s healthcare, farmers and merchants become better informed, and democracy strengthened when citizens are more fully informed.
•Launched nationwide literacy campaign in September 2001;
•Waging public information campaign engaging population in literacy training;
•Opened approximately 20,000 literacy centers;
•The Secretary of State for Literacy has created training materials for teachers and students with more than 2 million manuals printed;
•Trained thousands of literacy facilitators and guides, including high school students;
•Approximately 320,000 people currently enrolled in literacy classes in urban and rural areas;
•State offices, including National Palace, have established literacy training centers for employees or the public;
•In addition to government funds dedicated to literacy campaign, a fund was created through donations made by government officials and employees;
•Distance training techniques for rural areas including radio classes with accompanying manual.
From the Haiti Dream Keeper Archives