Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Learning to Read

You've likely read that Haiti has an incredibly high rate of illiteracy. The further you get from the big cities, the more truth there is to the statistics. Lifeline recently started a literacy program. We had no idea what to expect in terms of interest and participation. It has been SO fun to see how excited people are to come and learn. Almost all of our cooks are in the class. They're learning quickly.

Some in the class can read Creole, but are not comfortable writing, they're getting help too. Last week when payroll was handed out, one of the cooks signed her full name for the first time. She turned to the other cooks and proudly said, "See that? - I just did that no problem."
We're very encouraged by the progress made in the first six weeks.

Below, excerpt from a literacy program, "Haiti Lumiere" -
The education system in the countryside:
The education system in Haiti rarely reaches the children of the countryside where three-fourths of the population lives. The lack of educational opportunities in the provinces is three-fold: scarcity of teachers, a lack of governmental education policy, and the country's economic reliance on agriculture, which values child labor more than a child's education.
Thus, children are left victims of their own circumstances. Without any education, and consequently without learning how to read and write, Haiti's children are left without any hope for a brighter future. Schools in rural Haiti often have no walls or desks, and were often never meant to be schools in the first place.
Additionally, the teachers in Haiti have been victims of the same educational system and therefore are unable to teach the next generation. Teachers in the provinces of Haiti are often not educated themselves. An adult having completed six years of education is considered qualified to in turn teach through the sixth grade.

Life in Haiti:
As many studies have shown, there is a direct relationship between literacy and poverty. It constitutes a vicious cycle in which one begets the other. This is the trap Haiti finds itself in.
Haiti is currently ranked 150th out of 170 countries in the Human Development Report, (HDI being a measure of GDP per capita, life expectancy, and educational attainment), and is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.Haiti is behind in every statistic when compared with other countries in the region. Illiteracy and the lack of educational opportunities only add to the tolerance for widespread political corruption and maintain an increased culture of dependency that hinders development. The current conditions in Haiti will only guarantee the continuation of political turmoil and economic stagnation that have plagued the country over the past 200 years.
Without direct efforts to raise the literacy levels of Haiti Haitians will not be able to contribute to the rebuilding of their own country or the development of their region. In order to break this unending cycle of abject poverty in Haiti, Haitians must currently rely on the international donor community and Haitians living abroad to help their country overcome its education and literacy crisis.
Investment in education is fundamental for economic and social development, poverty alleviation and the end of political corruption. Education will allow a new generation of Haitians to think for themselves and become positive contributing members within their communities.