The January 2010 earthquake destroyed or permanently damaged numerous schools, churches, and homes, including the Holy Trinity Cathedral and complex in Port-au-Prince. Eight years later, schools and parishes are vibrant places of learning, worship, and community programs. Many schools and churches damaged or destroyed by the earthquake have been rebuilt while many others remain in temporary facilities that range from plastic and canvas tents to basic plywood and tin structures; and the educational needs that existed before the earthquake remain.
There are five top priorities for Episcopal schools in this post-earthquake reality:
1. Teacher training.
Skilled teachers are a cornerstone of educational excellence, and delivering quality teacher education programs in the Diocese of Haiti is challenging. Bringing teachers together is costly both in terms of time and expense, as is access to technology for virtual training. The Diocese is interested in funding and partnerships that can bring together Haitian teachers and educational experts.
2. Access to information technology at all schools.
Without technology, students in Haiti will not be able to receive a top-notch education nor be prepared for the next stage in their education and professional lives. This is a challenging but necessary goal, particularly for rural schools.
3. School food programs.
A Haitian proverb says, “An empty bag cannot sit on its own.” Adequate nourishment is a prerequisite to learning, and yet food security remains a major issue; many children simply do not have reliable, daily meals that provide adequate nutrition. Currently, less than 10% of the diocese’s schools offer a food program. The goal is to have at least one meal a day offered at all schools.
4. New, expanded, and repaired buildings.
Numerous schools were damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and continue to operate in temporary structures. Others do not have adequate space for the number of students enrolled or the ability to serve all of the children who would like to attend. Creating well-built classrooms of appropriate size remains a pressing need.
5. Improved teacher salaries and working conditions.
Schools rely primarily on school fees to support financial operations. However, families cannot always pay their school fees consistently, making it even more challenging to compensate teachers regularly and adequately. Many teachers and school administrators travel long distances to reach school and class sizes are quite large. By improving teacher salaries and working conditions, along with teacher training, the Diocese aims to recruit and retain outstanding teachers who will be able to make a long-term commitment to their schools.
Episcopal schools, parishes, and dioceses can directly support these goals by participating in and supporting the Haiti Partnership Program.