By Rudina Vojvoda
NEW YORK, 19 February 2013 – Three years after the devastating earthquake of 2010, the education of children in Haiti has seen significant improvement. Many schools have been reconstructed, and more children are going to school now than before the earthquake.
Yet, more needs to be done to ensure that every child has access to free, quality education. Expanding access to education for vulnerable children, improving the quality of education, ensuring equal opportunities for girls and boys and linking education to development remain some of the main challenges for the educators and Government of Haiti.
In this episode of Beyond School Books, UNICEF podcast moderator Femi Oke spoke with Jeremy Lachal, Director of Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (BSF), a cultural and social development humanitarian organization, and Galia Volel Ngamy, UNICEF Education Specialist. The organizations are collaborating to address different aspects of the education sector in Haiti.
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Stories in a box and Biblio Taptaps
Shortly after the 2010 earthquake, BSF Haiti, supported by UNICEF, created Stories in a Box, a small portable library of about 100 items of educational and entertaining content. The kits were distributed to camps for internally displaced persons, where, according to Mr. Lachal, the goal was to create conditions for young children to familiarize themselves with reading and – most importantly – help them overcome their trauma. “We were working on this because we thought it was very important not only to bring water, to bring supplies, to bring food … but to bring them this intellectual dimension,” he explained.
While BSF is still assessing the impact of the programme, Mr. Lachal said that the level of participation and feedback from partner organizations speaks of its success.
“Books are much more than just an education instrument…they could bring the children to express the trauma and to overcome this kind of very hard situation to deal with,” he said.
According to Mr. Lachal, BSF has released the first two Biblio Taptaps – mobile libraries that provide books for about 15,000 people in the most remote areas every month – and is working with the state university to create its first central reservation system, facilitating the work of 20,000 students, researchers and professors.
Enrolment rates on the incline
According to Ms. Ngamy, over the past two years, the Haitian Government has placed the education sector as the central priority for Haiti’s recovery and rebuilding. The effort is manifesting clear results. “If you look at the figures that we had before the earthquake, one of two children didn’t go to school – but, now, it’s one out of four, which is a great progress,” she said.
Nevertheless, there is a long road ahead. According to Ms. Ngamy, 20 per cent of children are still out of school and in danger of being left behind.
“What I hope is that government with partners such as UNICEF continues to promote free education for children, especially for primary. I am sure we will get there. I am not sure we will get there by 2015, but probably in a few years, I am hoping… we’ll be able to say that [Haiti] has provided education for 100 per cent of the children,” she said.