Education in Haiti: How Shashamane Sunrise is Making The Difference

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Alex Williams

 

As the developed world becomes increasingly globalized and technology an increasingly central part of citizens’ daily lives, the inequality gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” has grown even more rapidly. Among the many areas in which this gap poses serious problems to development and growth is education. Developing nations around the world face serious obstacles to universal education including high schooling costs, lack of financial resources and/or political will in local and national governments, lack of schools and teaching staff, as well as low quality infrastructure[1]. In the case of Haiti, the small island nation of 10.3 million people and poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, an entire generation of youth is at risk of “not having the necessary knowledge and basic skills to succeed in the labor force and contribute to the continued development of the country” due to the lack of receiving primary, let alone secondary education.[2]

 

In 2010, Haiti attracted the world’s attention after enduring a devastating 7.0 Magnitude earthquake with its center in the capital, Port au Prince. The Earthquake resulted in the death of 220,000 people and the displacement of 1.5 million. Sixty percent of Government and administrative buildings, eighty percent of schools in Port-au-Prince and sixty percent of schools in the South and West departments were destroyed or damaged for a total of 4,000 schools.[3] The destruction exposed the institutional failures in Haiti’s education system and spurred a new commitment to develop a stronger education system in Haiti, particularly for the millions of young children, many of whom were now orphans and displaced. For example, since the 2010 catastrophe, UNICEF has helped more than 750,000 children return to school as well as built nearly 200 safe, earthquake-resistant schools.[4]

 

Haiti, however, still has a long path towards recovery. Large organizations such as UNICEF and the UN can not singlehandedly repair the damaged education system. Haiti’s local and national governments also struggle with maintaining political stability as explained by Antonal Mortime the 2014 executive secretary for the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations: “From 2011 to 2014, Haiti has known acute political crisis. The legislative and local elections which are provided for in the constitution have not taken place for the last four years. Municipalities are actually led by executive agents appointed by the president. The senate, which is the permanent legislative power, has now been cut off from two-thirds of its members and declared inoperative.”[5]

 

Shashamane Sunrise, a non-profit organization supporting children’s education in developing countries and chaired by Broad Haven Associates’ CEO Dr. Rene Williamson, is working tirelessly in several developing nations to fill in these institutional gaps by providing educational resources and support to children in need. One of the organization’s main projects is the reconstruction of the Marion Primary School in Corail, Grand’Anse, Haiti.  A study conducted by the World Bank reported that as of March 2015, more than 200,000 Haitan children remain out of school.[6] In a country where more than half of the population is under age 25 with one third of it being under age 14, the future of the country truly depends on the children.[7] Shashamane Sunrise is working to ensure that more Haitian children are equipped with the powerful tools of education so that they can lead the creation of a better future for themselves and for their country.  So far, the project has raised nearly $1,300 of its $19,000 goal. There is still much work to be done.

 

In the words of a Marion Primary School student, Davidson Pierre, “I would like to see our school constructed so that we can be in a nice building and feel like normal students. When we sit here there are people who laugh at us when they pass by. We know we have support, we would like for our school to be a symbol of pride. Today I see that you’re here and I am so happy. You may see me sit like this but inside my heart I am smiling, because I know the school will be built. I am hopeful that you can make our school something we can be proud of.” Join us in making Davidson as well as hundreds of other Haitian students’ dream a reality.

 

On January 13, 2016 you can become a part of the Shashamane Sunrise community by attending the Shash Haiti Benefit at the Yale Club NY (50 Vanderbilt Avenue, NY, NY).

 

Please go to http://shashusa.org/ to learn more about how you can be involved today.

[1] Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Charter For the Future. “The Situation in Developing Countries.” http://www.bmz.de/en/what_we_do/issues/Education/hintergrund/bildungsituation/
[2] US AID, Haiti Education,.“The Challenge.” https://www.usaid.gov/haiti/education
[3] United Kingdom, Disasters Emergency Committee. “Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures.” http://www.dec.org.uk/articles/haiti-earthquake-facts-and-figures
[4] UNICEF. “Two Years After the Earthquale, Victories for Haiti’s Children.” http://www.unicef.org/protection/haiti_61275.html
[5] US News. “Haiti Remains in Crisis 5 Years After Quake, Experts Say.”  http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/13/haiti-remains-in-crisis-5-years-after-quake-experts-say
[6] World Bank. “Four Things You Need to Know About Education In Haiti.” http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/03/12/four-things-you-need-to-know-about-education-in-haiti
[7] Index Mundi. “Haiti Age Structure” http://www.indexmundi.com/haiti/age_structure.html

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