Whenever a tragic event occurs, even those directly responsible try to shift the focus on the weakness and the shortcoming of the government’s promises. An objective analysis of recent complaints reveals a double lack of farsightedness.
One year ago, on November 7, 2008, a three-story cinder block of “College La Promesse Évangelique” collapsed at Nerette, in Petionville, killing 97 students and teachers, and injuring 100 more. Five days later, in Port-au-Prince, part of Grace Divine d’Haiti collapsed, injuring seven. Furthermore, “the rumor of a collapse sparked a stampede in a school at “Clercine”, in Port-au-Prince suburb, that killed one and injured 15”.
Men made disasters like the ones that occurred one year ago can be prevented with a solid national education program that considers not only progressive curriculum but also quality facilities. The Haitian government should have a coordinated standard and system of control that insures the environmental quality of school constructions, public and private. It has long been a tradition in Haiti to operate a school in a private home, with or without recreational space for students to exercise and play. That century old tradition cannot accommodate 21st century global education.
It is important for those who want to lead the country to realize that quality education is the most important factor to the country’s economic development. If the parents of the students in the destroyed school were more literate, they would be on the boards of the schools or they would be able to follow the quality of the constructions and impress upon the workers not to steal the cement, but to put in the concrete mix the necessary proportions. These workers themselves would be more conscious about the solidity of the building that may house their children.
In Haiti, a functionary’s or even a cabinet minister’s promise, if not delivered in a very short time, is exposed to all kind of adverse circumstances. It may happen also that what one said is not always what others hear or want to hear. Anyway, it seems that “in the wake of the disaster, the government made payments to families: $2,500 for every death, $1,250 for serious injuries, and $750 for light ones. Full-time kindergarten and primary school teachers at College La Promesse, who where suddenly out of work, were given $1,125”.
However, the leaders of the Association of Victims say the government still has not made good on its pledges. “Chief among those concerns is that the Ministry of Education has failed to cover the tuition of all the survivors and schools have begun threatening to send kids home while others have already done so”. This is not the opinion of Marie-Alice Pierre-Luis, an official at he ministry of Education who said, ““I personally went there, and told them to write up a list of students with the cost and they never did.”
“In the wake of the disaster, several schools offered to take students from College La Promesse. One of those was ‘Foyer Chretien school’, a 30-minute walk from Nerette. Two weeks ago, the families of 54 students at the school who came from College La Promesse were told to pay their overdue fees for this year or they would have to leave”.
”Joseph Martin, a father of five, received a bill for $122 for enrolment fees and one month’s tuition from the Methodist school in the adjoining town of Delmas, where his 17-year-old daughter was relocated after College La Promesse collapsed. The school wanted to expel her but he said he was able to negotiate a grace period while the victims’ association tries to get the government to pay the fees”.
Although we can regret that Christian solidarity is not apparent in these disastrous circumstances, we cannot excuse the government and the municipalities that do not fulfill their obligation stipulated in the 1987 Constitution of Haiti in relation to the schooling of all children in the nation.
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