Over the past few weeks, I have been paying a lot of attention to the idea of education here in Haiti. As a teacher, I am always interested in seeing how other cities and states “do” education, so I was hoping to gain some perspective while in this country as well. First I think that it is important for you to know that in Haiti, an education is a privilege, not a right. There are so few free public schools here, which are run quite poorly according to the locals, that the only real choice for a good education is a private school. Just like in the states, these private schools cost money. This happens to be something that many Haitian families struggle with. As Americans, some of us make the choice to send our kids to private school because we want what is best for them, not because there simply is no room at the private school. Because of this, going to school here is only seen as an option for some. Even with this being said, it is also very evident in the Haitian culture that having an education is really the only way to make a decent living in the conditions in which they live. While some families struggle to have money for clothes and food, they still find it important that in some way, they can send their children to school.
Our first week being in Limbe, we were given the opportunity to visit an orphanage and school called “Drops of Love”. I was very interested to see how the leaders run their school program. I was surprised to hear that all of the children speak English. I was also happy to hear that the thirty children in the orphanage are taught by learning level. It seems that it would be easier and less expensive to just have all of the children in the same room at the same time learning the same thing, but they understand the importance of teaching each child to their own level and giving them the best education possible. The school room did not have many supplies, but I felt that a lot of learning and loving takes place in that room every day. I immediately felt at home in this classroom and was happily welcomed to come back anytime I would like to help teach. Although I am not sure about this possibility, I am still interested in learning ways that I can help this classroom in this orphanage to be the best that it can be. These kids truly touched my heart during my short visit. As we left the orphanage, a little girl named Maria who had been holding my hand and tugging on me the whole time, whispered in my ear, “You are like my sister. I love you.” If anyone is interested in helping the “Drops of Love” orphanage, please email me.
My next experience with the educational structure here in Haiti was when I met my new friends Guy, Jeff, and Jon Wesley. Through our time together, they explained to our Ignite team their struggles with education. Often growing up, they would wake up and walk hours to school just to get there and have no teacher. This happened over and over again and in return, the boys would go a whole school year without making the gains that they needed to. However, even if these boys were not given the people or resources that they needed to succeed, they were still expected to take the national educational exam at the end of the school year that would allow them to move onto the next grade. Because of this, the boys tried their hardest over and over again but are still ages 18, 19, and 24 and have not finished high school. Their next national exam is Monday, July 15th, 2012. I was given the privilege of being able to work with these three boys to help prepare them for their English grammar exam. The willingness in their hearts and the light in their eyes when learning something new reminded me of my students at home learning something for the first time. They were so attentive to my directions and always willing to try what I was asking them to do. For the past few weeks, the boys have been studying when they have electricity in their houses and then are up hours into the night studying under the street lights, spending every minute of spare time to prepare themselves for this test. I was truly humbled by their dedication even in the conditions that they have been through. They are persevering and will never give up on their dreams. Please pray for these boys next week as they start their tests.
Reading about the best ways to help people while here has shown me that in most situations, it is better to help a struggling person’s “poverty of self” than their “material poverty”. It’s kind of like the story that it is better to teach someone to fish than to give them a fish. I hope that helping these boys to get ready for their exams and giving them the confidence that they need to succeed is doing just this. There are a lot of things that have surprised, confused, and shocked me here in Haiti, but these boys’ willingness to learn even in these conditions, I truly admire.