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At a glance: Haiti

In Haiti, a long walk for education

In Beudoret, a small isolated locality in Haiti’s North department nestled in the heart of the mountains, teacher Joel Matthieu talks about the power of education and the importance of a healthy learning environment.  Download this video

 

By Jean Panel Fanfan

In partnership with the Haitian government, UNICEF has built 15 schools in the north and south of the country, particularly in hard-to-reach areas, in an effort to promote equal access to education.

BEUDORET, Haiti, 16 December 2014 – The eyes of Joel Matthieu, 35, light up when he talks about his love for teaching. He makes a lot of sacrifices every day, starting with the 90-minute journey he takes every day on foot and motorcycle over precarious roads to reach Beudoret, a small locality in Haiti’s North department, nestled in the heart of the mountains. He has been a teacher here since 2010.

“When it rains, it is impossible for me to go up, because the slope becomes slippery, so quite impractical,” he says. “Sometimes I have to stay home, and so do the other teachers. It's very difficult for the children. In these conditions, it is very difficult to learn or to teach.”

Shifting to quality education

Beudoret is an isolated place and nearly devoid of infrastructure. The slope is very steep and requires an all-terrain vehicle. The cliffs are never far away. There is no health centre, and the National School built by UNICEF is the only one for miles around.

UNICEF Image: Girls and boys in school uniforms walk to school.
© UNICEF / Haiti 2014 / video
Children holds hands on the way to school, Haiti.

It is one of 15 newly constructed schools built in partnership with local and international construction firms. They are designed with a metal structure to be resistant to earthquakes and to hurricanes. They contain restroom facilities – a new thing in most locations – and are also suitable for people with special needs. Each school has six classrooms, an adjacent office for teachers and administrators, as well as a space for dining.

For Mr. Matthieu, it is important to emphasize the change that the new school has brought. "I must say that students are more enthusiastic in this new environment. They learn better and faster,” he says.

To improve the quality of education, the Haitian Ministry of National Education and Professional Training, alongside UNICEF and partners, held several workshops for the teachers, focusing on writing and reading. Many teachers in remote regions had not been trained in the fundamentals of teaching. “Personally, I found a lot of helpful skills on how to help my students in writing skills, lecture and class management,” Mr. Matthieu says. 

Difficult conditions

Dieulage Saint-Jean, Director of the National School Beudoret, can hardly contain his joy when he looks at the brand-new school building, which offers students a greatly improved learning environment. “With the new school and workshops for teachers, we are focusing on the quality of education,” he says with a smile. “A proper environment is crucial for kids to learn.”

He remembers when there was no school building worthy of the name – classes were held under a roof of thatched coconut leaves. When it rained, it was practically impossible to teach because water flowed everywhere. As a temporary solution, UNICEF provided tents while the new school was under construction.

“Thanks to UNICEF, who constructed this beautiful building, we feel revived, and we are extremely happy with this gift,” Mr. Saint-Jean says. “For the town, I think we have the best school in the town. With this new location, students will get more to the task at hand – education. Our work will be more efficient.”

Meeting standards

Beatrice Malebranche UNICEF, Education Specialist, focuses on the protection of children and believes they deserve a safe learning environment. “According to the mandate of UNICEF, all children – without exception – should receive an education of quality," she says.

Strengthening the capacities of the Ministry of Education and training teachers across the country, especially in the hardest-to-reach areas like Beudoret, are important steps in this direction.

“UNICEF has been a key partner of the Ministry of Education during several projects, in terms of improving the education system,” Ms. Malbranche says. “The physical environment has a direct impact on learning.”


 

 

UNICEF Photography: Makeshift schools

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