Education has the potential to be a catalyst for change in Haiti and an equalizer amidst a harsh legacy of colonial rule and racial inequities. However, without support for schools’ financial security and for children’s health and nutrition, academic learning, and social and emotional learning (SEL) in place, education will remain a fledgling pursuit in Haiti. Recognizing this opportunity, Notre Dame has partnered for over a decade with the Haitian Catholic Church and supporting actors to improve learning outcomes for students in 562 schools across eight of the ten departments in Haiti.
49% of Haitian students cannot read a single word when they enter the third grade (EdData 2014), and roughly two-thirds of Haitian children experience violence from a caregiver or authority figure during childhood (Flynn-O’Brien et al, 2016). In general, education is high-cost in Haiti, with limited free school options, and even most public schools charge some form of tuition. As a result, under-resourced families are frequently forced to send their children to school during select months or years when it is financially feasible (WorldBank 2015). 80% of teachers have not received any form of pre-service training and over half lack basic qualifications (USAID 2020). Teachers are not paid a living wage and often work in overcrowded and underfunded classrooms. Schools are regularly forced to withhold teacher salaries or forced to shut down completely due to insufficient funds.
L3 Systems Activation: The home, school, and church
In response to chronic and systemic challenges facing the education system in Haiti, GC-DWC Haiti leverages a multidimensional approach to development in Haiti that integrates and evaluates a robust package of interventions for children and their families. The team’s unique approach and collaboration with local stakeholders addresses a wide range of developmental needs while empowering parish communities to make their own evidence-informed decisions, ultimately creating opportunities for independence and sustainability.
The challenges posed by chronic disinvestment and disruption of core institutions in Haiti mean that a top-down approach to change will never directly reach the individuals most in need. Recognizing that each Catholic parish in Haiti runs a school and is deeply embedded in local culture and home life, GC-DWC Haiti activates parish networks to meet children’s holistic needs at all three levels of their social ecology: the home (lakay), school (lekòl), and church (legliz) or L3. Innovative interventions occur within the L3 system and include everything from integrating child development and positive parenting messages into sermons and baptismal preparation courses to introducing nutrition education and resources to combat stunting within schools to creating community resource centers for play and learning. By activating the Haitian child’s most central networks, engaging key stakeholders, and leveraging culturally-relevant and engaging programming, GC-DWC Haiti promotes a whole child approach to development that values the cultural richness of Haitian communities and will create a ripple effect throughout the country.
A whole child approach to development and learning engages a broad spectrum of support systems, including family, school, and community, to ensure children and youth reach their full potential. WCD values all aspects of a child’s well-being—social, emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, and creative—to ensure they become active citizens and life-long learners. Therefore, GC-DWC Haiti helps parish-school communities to address concerns surrounding children’s nutrition and health, academic learning, mother tongue literacy, and SEL, and deploys curricular reform, teacher training, and effective investments to combat ethnic, racial, and gender inequalities.
GC-DWC Haiti leverages learnings from its L3 system to identify the complex spectrum of issues affecting children’s learning and development and to iteratively test and scale community solutions to these issues, using a Rapid Evaluation, Assessment, and Learning Methodology (REALM). By feeding learning back into the community and to local stakeholders through REALM during program implementation, on-the-ground practitioners are able to refine and make adjustments to programming in the moment, ensuring maximum impact and efficacy.
In order to refine its L3 interventions and then scale the most relevant and effective ones throughout its wide network of communities in Haiti, GC-DWC Haiti pilots interventions in 5 communities in the Nord department. Using REALM, the team feeds learning back into communities in order for programming to be improved before being scaled throughout the country.
Early Childhood Development
Leveraging the home, school, and church to develop the whole child in Haiti.
Using culturally relevant, mother tongue materials to foster children's literacy in Haitian Creole and French.
Social and Emotional Learning
Fostering the psychological, emotional, social, cognitive, and spiritual development of the child to achieve a life of human flourishing, dignity, and social harmony.
Enhancing the Model School Network
Research, Data Systems and Curriculum Strengthening
Leveraging radio as one of the most democratic and effective means of disseminating learning outside of the classroom.
Addressing man-made and natural disasters.