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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2012 Haiti: Evaluation of the Post-Earthquake Semi-Permanent School Reconstruction Project in Haiti

Author: Patrick VAN DE VELDE

Executive summary


In January 2010, some 4,000 schools and countless buildings, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly, hospitals and the capital's airport control tower, were destroyed or badly damaged by a strong earthquake that killed 1,500 teachers and interrupted education for 2.5 million children. Four thousand schools - including 77% of all public schools - were demolished. The vast majority of the losses were recorded in the western province where Port-au-Prince is located.

Reacting to these events, UNICEF first (April 2010) supported the re-opening of 600 schools through the erection of temporary learning spaces (tents, equipment and educational supplies). A Back to school campaign was launched in October of the same year. Phase II of UNICEF's learning space project focused on the construction of 196 so-called "semi-permanent" schools. A call for tenders for Phase III - the construction of 15 "permanent" schools - was about to be launched as this report was being written.

As Phase II was ending, the Country Office sought the input of a Consultant whose terms of reference were to provide UNICEF and the wider public with an overall independent and accountable summative evaluation and key lessons of UNICEF Haiti’s post-earthquake school reconstruction project (Phase II) during June 2010 to July 2012.


- Provide UNICEF and the wider public with an overall independent and accountable summative evaluation and key lessons of UNICEF Haiti’s post-earthquake school reconstruction project (Phase II) during June 2010 to July 2012.

- Provide UNICEF with a valuable aid both to learn lessons from the project and for future programming, especially for the ongoing Phase III school construction project of 16 schools in Northern and Southern departments.

- Make recommendations for the ongoing school reconstruction project Phase III, focusing on the internal process of the construction management and the feasibility of the upgraded semi-permanent school design in order to bring required improvements in the management process.


Review of project documentation, site visits and interviews

Findings and Conclusions:

The evaluation concludes that targets established early 2010 for Phase II were clear and met. Important delays affected implementation, mainly due to difficulties during site identification and confirmation, logistics, and limited resources.

The original Phase II school designs were drawn at a time the national government was extremely weak, and when no official standards were available. The aim was to build as fast as possible in a difficult environment, mostly on existing school sites.

To erect Phase II buildings, UNICEF made use of the metallic structures of tents that had been distributed during Phase I, strongly attached to antiseismic concrete slabs, reinforced by low walls and protected by galvanized iron sheets for the roofs. No damage was reported at any of the semi-permanent UNICEF schools when cyclone Sandy struck Haiti in October 2012. Building life-expectancy is estimated at 10-15 years. However, there is a potential for a longer use with proper maintenance and repairs, and with a number of modifications that would improve security and pedagogical environment.

Design weaknesses identified during the evaluation are not the results of conceptual errors. Phase II schools were built to meet immediate pressing needs, at a time the population, among them children, were afraid of concrete structures, and as local means were poor. The evaluation concludes the design was appropriate given circumstances, especially if efforts are made for improvements aiming at a better classroom environment for the longer term. Phase III designs address the above-mentioned weaknesses.

The relationship between UNICEF and the Ministry of National Education is said by both parties to be good and constructive.

Community cooperation must be reinforced. Among initiatives planned by the Country Office, a School Contract  between UNICEF, the authorities and the communities for the improvement of performances and should lead to the better management of public schools.


1. Increase the visibility of UNICEF in each school.
2. Conduct inventory improvements in the buildings constructed by UNICEF (Phase II) to inform design of public schools of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MENFP). Consider an adaptation of toilets for children.
3. Ensure and encourage MENFP to take actions to ensure better protection of children against falls in schools where there exist drop-offs between buildings and the land.
4. Prior to improved public schools in Phase II, inspect sites where soil and topographic studies have not been undertaken, check the status and strength of slabs.
5. To the extent possible, reallocate the space of buildings in Phase II to better meet the new standards MENFP.
6. Ensure good visibility for schools in Phase III.
7. The use of site space should be given special attention to allow for extensions if the need arises in the future, especially for pre-school education.
8. Maintain three national engineers and one administrative assistant after 31 December 2012 and for the duration of Phase III.
9. Construction companies whose performance during Phase II was not satisfactory should not be invited to participate in Phase III.
10. At least three assessors, one external to UNICEF, should vet the technical bids anonymously. The head of the construction unit should be among the evaluators.
11. Reserve 10% against each payment to safeguard against any defects/liability and the same should apply to any additional works.
12. Engage the services of an outside agency for the supervision and certification work.
13. Engineers of the construction unit should avoid direct dialogue with foremen/construction workers who should receive instructions only from the site engineer.
14. Engineers of the construction unit must undertake unannounced frequent site visits. A list of the key stages of each project must be defined and each steps with the Contractor should be approved by UNICEF

Lessons Learned:

1. Frequent changes in the head of the construction unit have a negative impact on the project.
2. Sufficient time must be allotted to the planning phase of a construction project (pulling together a competent and dynamic team, identification and action planning, budgeting, identifying and securing sites, designs). The head of the unit should be the first to be engaged and participate in the recruitment of the team.
3. Members of the construction unit must acquire a good knowledge of UNICEF procedures at the beginning of their collaboration, and expatriate colleagues should be informed of important local parameters.
4. Necessary technical resources (software, hardware, soil analysis, survey equipment) must be made available to the construction unit.
5. Regulations of the United Nations that impose limitations in terms of non-renewal of Technical Assistance contracts beyond two years weakens the ability of a construction unit. Delays that may result are potentially costly.
6. At the outset of a project, a detailed action plan should be defined. This plan must be updated as the project develops and be the basis for project monitoring and monthly progress reports.
7. Planning a reasonable time must be defined at the outset. Donors and other stakeholders should avoid imposing unrealistic deadlines.
8. Building schools is not limited to the construction of buildings. It must be the result of multi-sectoral interventions taken into account from the beginning of the definition and planning of the project.
9. When designing "semi-permanent" buildings, their possible long-term use should be taken into account.
10. The knowledge accumulated in other places should be made available to those responsible for a project. The knowledge gained in a project or program must be maintained.


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