School Visits and Complex Issues

Part of my orientation to the country of Haiti, the organization I work with and our partner organizations is the opportunity to do some traveling out to the provinces.  These have been wonderful eye-opening experiences as I travel outside the greater Port-au-Prince area and see other parts of this vibrant country and meet with some amazing committed pastors, leaders and teachers working in small communities well off the main roads.
These trips also open my eyes to issues that may seem so clear at first but when looked at from a different perspective become complex.

In a previous post Tracey wrote about the complex issues related to development in Haiti and focused on education.

Last week I traveled to the south of Haiti with an office colleague who works with World Renew along with some representatives of our partner Consortium for the Reinforcement of Christian Education in Haiti (CRECH). The purpose of the trip was to visit a number of schools connected to CRECH who had experienced damage due to hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy blew through at the end of October and brought wind, rain, death and destruction to parts of Haiti. The south was one area that was hit hard. World Renew has funds available for our partners to help with hurricane Sandy relief and CRECH is working with affected schools to help them repair hurricane damage. In total we visited 5 schools in the area of Cavailon and Saint-Louis-du-Sud.

The condition of the school buildings we visited ranged from sturdy block buildings to wood frame or wood pole and stone construction.  Some of the schools have support from a “Mission” of some kind while the local pastor runs others on the church property with little support from any outside organization.

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This school shares property with a church supported by a “mission”.
The original tin roof on this school was held down with wire before hurricane Sandy blew it off. The newest section of classrooms are being built with sub-standard construction practices.

At one of these schools the teachers are being paid a salary of $1000 gdes per month, the equivalent of $24 US dollars. Many of these teachers have to work another job to feed their families. I saw no textbooks and not many note books. The school superintendent showed us the accounts book of the school and only a few parents had paid the school fees since the beginning of the school year. The school building had been hit hard. The roof had shifted on the main classroom building and the walls were leaning. The area where the younger children had class had been completely destroyed and quickly rebuilt with inferior construction to shelter the children for class. The tin roof had holes allowing water to drip on the children during the rainy season.

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These are the primary school classrooms at a school where the teachers are paid very little and the school building might not sustain another hurricane.

Other schools we saw were in much better condition with painted classrooms and one even had a library. The administrator at this school was proud of the 90% pass rate of his 6th grade pupils who had taken the government tests.

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This school had many buildings, all painted and a library. The iron entrance gate was destroyed and they were asking for money to replace it.

So which school should receive the funds? The criteria is these funds are to be used strictly to repair hurricane damage and cannot to be used to up-grade the schools in any way. The building of the school with few resources and a poor pass rate on the government exams is in such poor condition that another hurricane might just totally destroy it.  The school that appears to be better funded with the higher pass rates also sustained roof damage and has not been able to re-install the metal gates to the compound that keep the children in and others out.  Most issues in the developing world are complex and this one is no different.

I don’t have the answer to this question, my World Renew colleague and CRECH will have to make the final decision, but where would you invest?

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