On January 12, 2010 Haiti suffered one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. The small island nation was struck by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, leaving the poorest nation in the western hemisphere in a state of devastation. Wide spread damage, the collapse of the government, along with hundreds of thousands of deaths, grabbed the world’s attention and inspired people and nations to give billions of dollars in aid.
Despite the influx of capital, the country lacked the resources, coordination, and logistical foresight to manage this mammoth and rapid aid response. So, although progress has been made, more than a year later many still live in tents, rubble still litter the streets, and little has been done to reform and resurrect Haiti’s schools.
Historically education in Haiti has not been accessible. Because Haiti does not have a universal public education system, even a primary school education is considered a privilege.1 This lack of accessible education is reflected in Haiti’s literacy rate. Compared to the 90 percent average literacy rate for Latin American and Caribbean countries, Haiti’s is estimated at 53%.2.
The Earthquake destroyed more than 80 percent of the country’s schools, greatly exacerbating the already abysmal condition of Haiti’s education system. Along with widespread school collapse, school records were lost, the Ministry of Education was destroyed, and more than 1,300 teachers and some 38,000 students died.3
Education is vital to Haiti’s future development. The School Fund will help young people prepare for the task of rebuilding by funding secondary school education. This simple but crucial step will help the next generation of leaders establish Haiti as country not characterized by its shortcomings and misfortunes but by its determination and perseverance.
1. Paul Franz, Improving Access to Education in Haiti, for the Pulitzer Center, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Published on October 25, 2010.
2. Haiti country profile, Library of Congress Federal Research Division (May 2006).
3. “Haiti press release: We Must Reform Education”, SOS Children’s Villages UK, (Dec 20, 2010)