Children in Haiti face some of the most adverse conditions for learners anywhere in the world. Damage and displacement due to earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters has severely curtailed access to education, shelter, nutrition, and health facilities – a situation further exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. COVID related school closures have led to an estimated 3 million Haitian students missing out on learning, according to UNICEF, with another 500,000 students at risk of dropping out of school entirely. A resilient education system able to provide a quality education to Haitian communities despite these challenges is vital to ensuring student success.
The GC-DWC is working to make out-of-school responses to natural and man-made disasters a key part of a resilient Haitian education system.
In response to chronic and systemic challenges, the GC-DWC has created partnerships with commercial and community radio stations in the Nippes and Nord Departments to broadcast literacy and social emotional learning focused radio programs as well as play-focused early childhood development radio programs. In partnership with local communities, we have also established solar-powered community resource centers that include digital and non-digital games and materials through which parents and community members can engage young children. These resource centers are community owned and managed, providing a continuous opportunity for learning and development if preschools are closed in the future.
In order to address the lack of digital and physical learning and play resources in disaster-affected communities, the GC-DWC is working with preschools to integrate a robust and comprehensive early childhood development (ECD) program that emphasizes play-based learning, leverages the consortium’s successful approach to social and emotional learning, highlights life skills/discovering the world themes, and covers key pre-literacy and pre-numeracy concepts aligned with the Haitian Ministry of Education’s preschool curriculum.
In response to the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Southern Haiti in 2021, the GC-DWC co-created a common-vision plan in partnership with the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education/La Commission Épiscopale pour l’Éducation Catholique (CEEC), the Federation of Protestant Schools in Haiti/La Fédération des Écoles Protestantes d’Haïti (FEPH), and Haiti’s Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training/Ministère de l'Education Nationale et de la Formation Professionnelle (MENFP) to respond to disruptions in education. In particular, roughly 50 percent of schools in the South Department have been destroyed or damaged, requiring structural attention. These school closures put 230,000 children at risk of dropping out. The partnership utilized a whole-child/whole-school community systems approach to manage schools for a significant percentage of earthquake-affected children, families, and communities. In order to address acute food shortages for vulnerable children and their families in earthquake affected communities, the GC-DWC is providing weekly access to nutritious hot meals through community-identified pathways.
Haiti is one of many countries in which access to education is precarious. Globally, millions of children a year are unable to attend in-person school or access a formal education. With the threat of climate change making extreme weather events more common and growing economic inequality, children around the world will continue to face adversity when seeking education. In response to these realities, we must redefine resilient education to include out-of-school solutions and use lessons learned in Haiti to help define practice globally.