Saturday, June 02, 2012

Haitian Schools: Through a new lens

Click. Click. Click goes the shutter of the camera. All week I’ve been photographing kids at the school in Pignon. I’ve been seeing them through a new lens.

I have been straightening collars, tucking in shirts and trying to provoke smiles from more than 180 kids ages 3 to 16. I have a newfound respect for people who take school photos for a living. All those names!

This week Ericlee and I have been spending a lot of time at the Haitian schools. This is one of the reasons we came to Haiti in the month of May; we wanted to catch the schools while they were still in session. Ericlee has such a passion of improving the quality of the schools. My passion is to try to help some of the most impoverished kids have the opportunity for education.

On Wednesday, one of the teachers was sick. There are no substitutes so that meant a class of sixth graders was without a teacher. Ericlee decided to step in for a closer look at what the teachers here experience. He decided to put his 11 years of experience teaching high school and junior high math to good use.

I found him scratching algebra problems on what we in the U.S. would call an “old-fashioned green chalkboard.” These have all been replaced by wipe erase boards or even smart boards in many American classrooms.

The chalkboard is the center of teaching in Haiti. The kids don’t have books. A few have notebooks for copying down problems but that is about it.

Ericlee was reminded again that quality administrators and quality teachers make or break a school.  If the teachers are struggling then the students will start to struggle and the cycle will snowball.   At the same time if the school is successful, then more quality teachers will want to teach at that school and more students will want to go there.  That is our goal.

We want to provide more training for our teachers. We want to add more resources to the schools so teachers and students have books, computers and other supplies to enrich their learning experience. Ericlee wants to make these schools, which were started more than 50 years ago by his grandparents, excellent today.

On one level, that means a high percentage of students pass the exit exam raising the reputation of the school. On a deeper level, that means expanding the education experience for the children. We want to move beyond copying problems and rote memory. We would love to add practical classes that teach kids a trade like gardening or woodworking or cooking, while staying true to our standards of teaching Biblical values. 

Our next challenge is reaching out to kids and families who truly can’t afford school from this neighborhood. One idea we have been thinking through is offering a scholarship program for kids whose families can’t afford school. We can’t offer education free to everyone at this point because we don’t have the money. We also see that when it is offered free it cheapens the value of the education.

That said, there are some who can’t afford to pay, buy supplies and uniforms.  We know lots of friends in the U.S. have the resources to provide the $10-$15 a month it takes to send these kids to school. This month the school in Pignon is lacking $600 in funds just to pay its teachers.

Every time I looked at Ericlee he was staring down the school yard. I knew the wheels were turning in his head. Since his schooling and passion is fitness and physical education, he dreams about building a fitness-oriented playground for the school  -  maybe putting in a basketball court or soccer field as well.  It would include pull-up bars, rope climbs, monkey bars, tunnels and swings. 

Recess right now consists of about 50 older boys running after a flat, flopsy soccer ball while the younger kids look on. Some play in the dirt and rocks on the uneven play yard. A Bible study group from our church already started raising some funds for this project. They put together their talents and raised $1,600 to start us off. We are so grateful!  The goal is $30,000.

Can’t wait to raise the rest and click some pictures of the Haitian kids playing on that playground one day.

**Sadly, none of my photos will load tonight. This internet is far from high-speed. Pictures to come soon!

No comments: