Ram Praneeth | Contributing Writer
Haiti, a country marred by instability and poverty, struggles with many internal and external conflicts. Education is no different in the nation’s long list of domestic battlegrounds.
On Dec. 1, a virtual panel discussion from the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center, titled “Reflections on Haiti: Layering the Conversation Through Educator’s Experiences,” brought educators who shared their stories of navigating through crises and fostering resilience in the face of adversity. They all spoke in Haitian Creole.
Darline Alexis, a literature professor from Quisqueya University, deeply ingrained in Haiti’s educational fabric, shared her experiences as a panelist during the discussion. The conversation delved into the challenges faced by educators in a country marked by political turmoil, economic instability, and security threats.
The education landscape in Haiti is nuanced, with institutions like the University of Kiskeya facing unique challenges. According to Alexis, the institution operates without a singular owner but relies on an administrative council comprising individuals with diverse backgrounds in agriculture, horticulture and education. With approximately 3,000 students, the economic faculty heavily depends on student enrollment.
Alexis recalled the 2006 Haitian elections, which were marked by controversy due to claims of widespread voter fraud as well as extensive delays in voting procedures. However, these were the first free elections Haiti had experienced in a long time, as the Haitian government was overturned by a military coup in 2004.
The aftermath of the crisis revealed a changed economic landscape, setting the stage for further challenges.
The earthquake in 2010 compounded the struggles, and the subsequent years have seen ongoing crises, such as gang attacks and social unrest. Alexis lamented the impact on students, noting changes in behavior, increased aggression and a palpable shift in discourse. The challenges extend beyond the academic realm, affecting daily life, including limited social interactions, suspicions among community members and a pervasive sense of insecurity.
The issue of safety has become a paramount concern, with schools having to close gates in response to threats.
It created an environment like a self-imposed jail, as students and educators rush home before dusk to avoid potential dangers.
Alexis passionately posed a crucial question: “What do we do about the children in a country that is in perpetual crisis?”
Ester Cameau, another panelist and educator at the Horatius Laventure High School in Haiti, highlighted the stark disparities between public and private schools. Over the past three years, the education sector has been held hostage by political powers, resulting in a decline in student enrollment and motivation.
The intersection of political turmoil and educational goals has left students disinterested and unmotivated.
The challenges faced by educators in Haiti are not limited to the higher education sector. Maite Trouillot, who has experienced the evolving landscape of Haiti’s education since 2017, emphasized the impact on all levels of education.
Migration phenomena have disrupted student and professor stability, with changes in attendance lists becoming a monthly routine. The unpredictability of student numbers poses a significant challenge for planning and executing academic schedules.
Despite their challenges, educators like Alexis and her colleagues expressed their dedication to rebuilding Haiti through education. The path forward is fraught with obstacles, but their resolve to nurture the next generation remains unwavering.
In a country where every step forward is met with hurdles, the educators echoed a sentiment best captured by Alexis.
“We are here because we have a responsibility to fulfill and want to be here,” she said. “Haiti is a project that needs to stay alive.”