The Haitian State and the State of Haitian Education

by Rea Dol, Founder, Director of SOPUDEP
edited and translated by Ryan Sawatzky, The Sawatzky Family Foundation
Originally posted at SOPUDEP

Any country wanting to engage in the process of development for a prosperous future must invest in education. In this crossroads of Haiti’s history, it still is not a priority for the Haitian state to take charge of education and to implement suitable means to ensure the training and the development of all Haitian’s. For true national development to happen, this democratic governments hand cannot be withdrawn.

The Haitian constitution of 1874 was the first to recognize the importance of state funded education, at least in its primary phase, by declaring obligatory primary school education. Following constitutional amendments stipulated that primary school education was not only obligatory, but free. In spite of these written words, structures have hardly improved, and the Haitian state continues to neglect its duties in this field, preferring to leave the responsibility of education on the largely unregulated private institutions and foreign NGO’s.

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The Other Aristide

Yesterday was Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s birthday and, as we’ve already blogged, there was a celebration in Haiti. Aristide himself didn’t attend, but his wife, Mildred Aristide, made a few remarks at the event.

So that lead me on a bit of a search to see if I could find some good Creative Commons images of Mildred Aristide. I still haven’t found that, but I did stumble upon some interesting quotations which are from a Democracy Now! interview with the former First Lady. At one point of the interview, she talks about the perception of dwelling on the past:

You know, when we were in Central Africa, someone gave us a book on Barthélemy Boganda, who was the founder of Central Africa, the precursor of their independence, because he ultimately — he died before Central Africa gained its independence from France. And there was a line in the book that made me freeze. When they were criticizing Boganda for being critical still of the relations between colonial France and Central Africa, and they kept telling him, “You’re talking about the past,” and that it was a new set of relations between the colonizer and the colony, and Boganda said, “I would stop talking about the past, if it weren’t so present.”

Later, she talks about the Ugandan economist and lawyer, Dani Nabudere:
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Out of the Past: A Look at Papa Doc Duvalier

While digging around in the Wikimedia Commons, I came upon this 1971 documentary about Papa Doc Duvalier created by the US government. The language that it uses to describe the Haitian people, Haitian history, and the Vodou religion is fairly problematic, but it’s an interesting document of how the US was talking about Haiti then.

Obviously the film excludes any mention of how a French colony was only “prosperous” because it enslaved people to produce wealth. It also fails to talk about the fact that the US was happy to lavish aid on Duvalier’s regime who then used that money as his own personal stipend.

MSF on the Cholera Crisis

Here’s a blurb from a recent MSF dispatch:

In the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, where nearly a third of Haiti’s population lives, the public health facilities have not integrated cholera treatment into their services, which means that if you present at a public hospital with cholera symptoms you will be referred to the CTC of an NGO like MSF. In the department of Artibonite, where approximately 20 percent of all cholera cases have been reported since the epidemic began, some CTCs are facing medical supply issues, and some of the staff have not been paid their salaries since January. This has direct consequences for patient care. However, these situations are in contrast with the successes in Nord department, where the local health authorities responded well to the last peak in the epidemic. This calls into question the national authorities’ political will to set up an effective national cholera response system.

This situation is further complicated by the decrease in international funding, which has reduced the number of NGOs working on cholera—whether on the medical care level or the prevention level with activities concerning water, hygiene, and sanitation. There are fewer and fewer operators engaged in the fight against cholera in Haiti, but the population is still vulnerable to the disease.

Successful coordination of responses to the epidemic between the remaining operators depends on quality, reliable epidemiological data. Yet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) support to the Haitian government in setting up an effective epidemiological surveillance system—which would make it possible to adapt the cholera response in strategic locations—has been lacking.

Short Film: Baseball in the Time of Cholera

A mailing from the IJDH alerted me to this powerful short film, Baseball in the Time of Cholera. Brian Concannon writes:

Baseball in the Time of Cholera is a powerful 29-minute documentary that tells the true story of 14 year-old Joseph Alvyns and the ways in which the cholera epidemic changed his young life forever. Baseball also prominently features BAI’s managing attorney, Mario Joseph’s tireless work to achieve justice for victims of cholera. This film will bring Haitians’ fight for justice to the world stage.

By making this film freely available online, our partners at Ryot, led by Directors David Darg and Bryn Mooser and Executive Producer, actress Olivia Wilde, are igniting a global campaign to share the message with as many people as possible: it’s time for the UN to “UNdeny.”

Ryot decided to feature our work in their film because they recognized that the fight for justice is an essential part of the solution to Haiti’s cholera epidemic. As IJDH supporters, you are an important part of this opportunity. Social media is changing the face of advocacy, and showing the UN that huge numbers of people support our clients’ fight.

The film includes many good moments with Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon.

One of the important points that Concannon makes in the film is that the UN is quick to find funding for an elaborate and long-term MINUSTAH presence in Haiti, but that it’s comparatively sluggish about finding funding to halt the spread of a disease that it caused.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the IJDH takes donations to support their case to hold the UN accountable for its role in the cholera epidemic. Sadly, the IJDH is not a registered charity in Canada, so Canadians can’t get a tax deduction. But the IJDH’s work is incredibly important and they can use anything you can offer.

In the News: New study notes rise of private security firms in Haiti since quake

by Trenton Daniel, The Associated Press, Monday, July 9, 2012
originally posted at CIGI online

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti has seen a demand for private security companies grow since the 2010 earthquake and those same firms are training more agents to keep up with the boom, a Canadian think-tank announced Monday in a new report.

The study by the Centre for International Governance Innovation notes that the growing demand coincides with a “subsequent spike in international engagement” — a reference to the foreign groups that arrived in the country in the aftermath of the January 2010 quake. Haiti’s market for private security is likely to grow at least as rapidly as the global rate of 7 to 8 per cent annually, the report said.

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