Teach Your Children: Universal Childhood Education in Haiti


Haiti is a small country with big problems. With only 9.8 million citizens in the country and up to one million living in the US and Canada, it is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and among the five poorest in the world by all measurable standards including GNP, life expectancy, literacy/education, and standards of living. Government instability and corruption and an uneven polarized social structure have severely impaired Haiti’s human development. (1) A great deal of aid, some promised and some delivered has been pumped into this small land, including moneyand resources from other countries and from many humanitarian organizations and churches. Haiti is known as the “land of NGOs” with estimated billions of US dollars in foreign aid. Still things remain quite desparate there.

Many people from countries all over the world as well as Haitians themselves have explanations and suggested solutions for Haiti’s many problems. Among the many opinions and problem solving ideas one of the most important is the Education of Haiti’s children.

Currently the state of primary and secondary education in Haiti is poor. Haiti’s literacy rate is is only 53%. The country has shortages in education supplies, physical schools and trained/qualified teachers. Moreover, demographics reveal that 70% of the population lives in rural areas but only 2020% of state education funds go to rural schools. The Ministry of Education has been deficient in its duty to improve the quality of “education for all” in Haiti. Most of the schools and teaching in Haiti are privately run and cost families too much from their meager income.

Universal education leads to “health for all”It is a basic human right and it is viewed as an “equalizer for opportunity” (2) as delineated in the 2nd MDG – universal education for all. It is well known that educated populations are generally healthier with learned knowledge about basic hygiene, nutrition, reproductive health and apprpriate health seeking activities, awareness and involvement. (3)

Bottom line: Haiti needs to take ownership in its own human development by pursuing a full committment to universal education. The benefits of an effective, sustained primary and secondary education program in Haiti would include better health, nutrition, increased productivity, reduction in gender and socioeconomic inequality and promotion of peace and stability. (4,5)

Universal free education is not rocket science. It is clear that an educated population is better off – healthier, more productive and stable. Haitians are strong and proud. They need a better way of living through education for all. A sustainable and effective education system can pull Haiti out of its overdependence on aid and into development. Elected in 2011, President Michael Martelly has made it one of his top priorities in his new government.  His cabinet has created an education fund to ensure free primary schooling for all of Haiti’s children and a program to stop the privatization of Haiti’s schools. The enormous amount of aid for education through private schools needs to be rechanneled to fund public free schooling.

It is the right thing to do. The time is now.    

1. BBC News. Haiti Country Profile 2011. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1202772.stm

2. United Nations:http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

3. USAID: http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/education_and_universities/higher-ed.htm

4. World Bank: http://go.worldbank.org/F5K8Y429G0

5. World Bank: http://go.worldbank.org/UTZK783TN0


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