During my time in Haiti, I have spent a lot of time with the administrators and teachers of the 4 HOM elementary schools. While many of our ideas and practices are similar, the structures of the school systems are very different. In Haiti, going to school is not a guarantee. Few teachers are actually certified and even fewer schools are accredited. To get into an HOM school, children must be 3 years old when school starts in September. They also must have a birth certificate and a vaccination card; both of these documents are very rare in Haiti. There is one day a year at 10:00 am when registration is held at each of the schools. Parents begin lining up around 5:00 am to get one of the 60 spots for the Pre-Kindergarten class. These spots go quickly and several parents and kids leave crying when they are told there are no more spots left. My first question was, well aren’t there other schools they can go to. And here’s the answer for that…
Attending an HOM school means more than a education, it is health and nutrition, Bible studies and classes, English classes and most importantly the hope of a better future! Most of the parents are uneducated and are illiterate; the children will most likely be able to read and write at levels beyond their parents in the first grade. If the parents are one of the lucky ones to have a job, they would make on average $1 U.S. dollar a day. Being accepted into this school means benefits for the entire family. Because this is a Christian school, children often come to Christ through the school and also ask their parents to begin coming to church as well. If there are problems at home, there are people at the school to counsel and work with the parents and educate them about parenting and raising Christian children.
When you are accepted into the school, you receive the following:
· 2 pairs of school (one in September and one after Christmas break)
· 2 uniforms (fabric is given to the parents with a pattern and most mother’s sew the uniforms)
· Belt, underwear, socks, undershirts (For many children, when they come to school, this is the first time they have had any clothes of their own.)
· A backpack and school supplies
· Vitamins each morning
· Medical and dental treatment when needed
· A hot meal for lunch (Many children bring an empty lunchbox and fill it up with leftovers from lunch and bring it home for dinner and to share with their family members.)
What also sets HOM schools apart is they are the only schools in Haiti to teach English to the younger grades. They take kids at 3 years old because they usually come malnourished, must teach them their names and how to keep their clothes on, must potty train them, teach them to sit in a chair at a table and must teach the children discipline. There are 3 years of kindergarten (Pre-K, K1 and K2). Upon completion of these 3 years, there is a graduation ceremony and a celebration. This will be next week, and I can’t wait for this special service. They are also the only schools in the Port Au Prince area to have a library. There is a Haitian National Exam that kids are required to take in sixth, ninth, twelfth and thirteenth grades. The passing rate for this exam is extremely low, but HOM students have nearly a 100% passing rate. Without a passing grade, a student can not go on to the next grade. Teachers prepare their students all year and sixth graders come to school on Saturdays and through the summer until the exams. Prayers for these students who are taking the exam today! I’m blown away to see teachers working with the older students studying and reviewing for these exams late into the night at the church and in any room where there is electricity.
Having worked with the teachers and students while I’ve been here, I realize how much I take my education and our school system (although definitely in need of improvement) for granted. These students show up each morning all clean and tidy in their uniform. Despite the fact that they are most likely living in tents with no power and no running water, rarely do you see any students with stains on their uniforms. The parents clean their black shoes and make sure the shirts are tucked in and for girls, their hair is pulled with back with bows right before they drop them off. The reasons behind this are that parents are proud to send their kids to school, kids realize how lucky they are to receive this opportunity and the entire family supports this child because they know that a chance at a good education means a chance for a better and brighter future!
All of these kids have my heart and have forever changed my life! I hope you enjoy these pictures and get a glimpse into the lives of these little angels! I know many of you may or may not be interested in education, but it truly is the key to rebuilding Haiti!