Investing in education is seen as investing in an entire country’s sustainability – their future economic development, stability, and even democratic engagement.
ACCESS & OPPORTUNITY.
Once attended by 250 children each year in grades K through 12, D2C's community partner school St. Anne’s student body dwindled significantly in recent years. Parents were unable to afford tuition and school fees, and due to the lack of funds, the school fell into disrepair and teachers left to find work elsewhere. Despite excellent exam scores, if students are unable to pay school fees or there’s a lack of qualified teachers, they cannot advance to the next grade. Thus, children are not being educated and the cycle of extreme poverty continues.
D2C believes that education is a critical piece in the socio-economic development of any country. In 2018, D2C initiated our Education Access Program in order to remove economic and cultural barriers inhibiting school operations and student attendance.
As a result of the Education Access initiative, children living in poverty in Cayes Jacmel are able to continue their education and educators are able to utilize their degrees, remain in the area and earn a livelihood. Attendance records are improving and teachers are able to participate in early education development trainings to support their students’ academic achievement. Students are not only meeting academic expectations for their grade but in some cases excelling beyond. Additionally, D2C's Education Access Program is focused on classroom restoration so that students and teachers have a safer and more supportive environment in which to learn.
D2C has seen the excitement and energy of the students in Cayes Jacmel as they yearn to empower themselves though education. We want to ensure that these children and youth are not left behind as Haiti works to develop their economy and future.
EDUCATION CRISIS IN HAITI
Formal education rates in Haiti are among the lowest in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of Haitian children enrolling in primary school but only 16% reaching secondary school (UNICEF, 2016). Teacher availability, Financial and cultural barriers – particularly surrounding girls - and low literacy rates among parents are impeding academic advancement and creating long-term socio-economic devastation.
While the barriers to receiving a good education in Haiti impact both boys and girls, the situation is quite dire for girls with devastating life-long impacts. Many girls in Haiti are unable to obtain jobs with livable wages because they are unable to complete their education. Haitian girls who do not have access to education are more likely to be poor, affected by violence, and have more children. For those women who do find work, they receive lower wages than men, work more in the informal sector without social security and are less represented in formal employment.
INVESTING IN EDUCATORS
D2C's program includes providing funding to pay the salaries for the teachers and administrators at the primary school of St. Anne's as well s for periodic teacher trainings for professional development. By ensuring their livelihood, teachers were motivated to remain at St. Anne’s throughout the full academic year, to invest more deeply in their student’s achievements, and to participate more meaningfully in their own professional development. D2C is witnessing an infused commitment of the teachers striving to provide education to children in the community with little to no resources. D2C witness teachers devising unique methods of group note taking for students who could not afford notebooks, the introduction of Creole to allow students struggling in French to have the opportunity to expressed themselves and more active outreach to parents. Their dedication to the children and future of their community and country has been inspiring and has set D2C on a more challenging and exciting path that is resulting in wider and more long-term impact.
Teacher trainings seek to address long-standing issues taking place both in the classroom and outside of it. This includes irregular attendance, lack of effort or motivation from students, unresponsive parents and creative solutions for school materials scarcity. They focus on curriculum development and targeted strategies for academic achievement, like teaching on a more individual basis as opposed to the group approach that had been in place previous years. They look at the most common obstacles encountered and how to encourage students to take pride and ownership in their learning process through creative learning techniques and motivational theory. They analyze national exam results and devise strategies to improve overall scores.
D2Cs In-Country Directors regularly obtained quantitative data for attendance to measure student retention throughout the year. Haiti frequently experiences civil and political disturbances that result in prolonged and dangerous protests. Schools encourage students to remain at home and not venture into potentially harmful environments. Despite this challenge, D2C is seeing attendance records reflect a stronger and growing commitment to education by students, staff and parents compared to previous years (based on qualitative reporting from Administrators and teachers). On average, D2C measured a 30%-50% increase in attendance for grades 1-6.
D2C also monitors end-of year National Exam scores for each grade to ascertain how well students are learning the required information as well as where more effort needs to be made in the classroom to support student’s ability to achieve academic advancement. Overall, we are pleased with the success rate of our students, particularly those in the higher grades who we are encouraging to continue their education and attend secondary school. Most recently, St. Anne's students in grades 1-6 had a 70% pass rate for the end-of year exams.
In 2018, the St. Anne’s school building was structurally unsound and falling into disrepair. The vast majority of classrooms had corrugated metal or crumbling low-quality cement walls and buckling support beams. The roofs leaked heavily during the rainy season and in some classrooms were replaced by tarp and string. The extent of the structural damage was so extensive that D2C determined the safest course of action for students and staff was to tear down and rebuild the classrooms entirely.
D2C conducted extensive research into various construction companies and visited other low-income schools in southern Haiti to find a sustainable classroom design that was appropriate for the St. Anne’s campus, resilient against natural hazards like earthquakes and hurricanes, and financially feasible. The approved plan for the classrooms included an open air design that permitted plenty of fresh air and natural light to enter the classrooms. This was vital due to the lack of electricity at the school which forced students to learn their lessons in dim and stuffy rooms. During the rainy season, secured tarps will be used to cover the open windows to provide additional protection. Each classroom is expected to hold approximately 10 students and one teacher comfortably.
Due to these self-imposed guidelines, we initiated rebuilding half of the classrooms at St. Anne’s, or 3 out of the 6 total. Ideally, restoration will become an annual project and all 6 classrooms on campus will be rebuilt, new furnishings to adequately support students and teachers purchased, and continuous improvement to the overall conditions of the school will continue.
D2C believes collaborating with parents will help mediate cultural barriers regarding education. As part of D2C’s community engagement efforts, the D2C In-Country Director to facilitate town hall PTA meetings so that parents may participate in their children’s education. Moreover, the open forum for communication aims to help remove or work around cultural barriers and stigmas regarding education (particularly for girls). Regular sessions are held throughout the year regarding potential careers that students may pursue and the importance of higher education. In time, D2C aims to provide a literacy program to all parents active in the PTA, in order to increase their ability to support their child’s education and their own economic stability.