Haiti Partnership Teacher-Training Update: Lagonav, Haiti
The Context of the Teacher Training: One of the most underserved areas of Haiti is a small island off Haiti’s western coast, called Lagonav. Between 80,000 and 120,000 people, inhabit this island, many living on less than USD 1.50 a day.
Access to the island is difficult; many international development agencies are daunted by the travel logistics and costs associated with working there. Five years ago, the SSNDs formed a partnership with Beyond Borders, a highly reputable organization working for the past 20 years on Lagonav. SSND was drawn to this partner because of shared values, Beyond Borders’ experience in Haiti, their Haitian-led approach to development, and their commitment to serving one of the most vulnerable communities in Haiti. This partnership has enabled the
Atlantic-Midwest Province of SSND to continue their mission of education to the underserved at a time when aging and declining membership has made it difficult to establish a traditional SSND mission there. Partnership, with those who share common values, is a way for women religious today to continue their mission in underserved communities when they are no longer able “to put boots on the ground.”
Haiti’s vulnerability: Many factors and forces continue to hinder Haiti’s full development. In addition to the natural and climate related disasters which continue to threaten the island nation, the legacy of colonialism, and other structural injustices, has impeded the firm establishment of good governance, and the social infrastructure required to guarantee basic human rights to nutrition, housing, health, security, water, and education.
Child slavery: Unrelenting poverty and insecurity has forced many Haitian families to “send their children away” into domestic servitude. While at first glance this practice seems unconscionable, sadly, many Haitian parents regard it as the only choice they have to guarantee the physical survival of their children. While money is not exchanged when a child is sent into domestic servitude, their parents, however, are led to believe in the “good will” of the household where their child will work.
There is an unreliable assumption that the child in servitude will be adequately fed, treated caringly, and have some access to education. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Haitian children in domestic servitude who are called restaveks, (those who abide with others) are often subject to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. A great stigma lingers beyond the tenure of service that is associated with having been a child slave. This stigma often impedes an adult survivor’s capacity to overcome the social isolation related to their experience as a restavek. Haiti is at the top of the Global Slavery list, with between 150,000- 300,000 children living as restaveks; sixty per cent of these children are girls. In order to address this problem, a multi-faceted approach is necessary.
The SSND Teacher Training Project and its impact on Child Slavery The Atlantic-Midwest Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame has been supporting teacher-training, one of the programs that is in place to guarantee child protection from slavery on the island of Lagonav in Haiti. The teacher-training program is one facet of a development approach employed by the SSND partner, Beyond Borders, called the Model Community Initiative, (MCI).
This approach, which directly addresses the root causes of child domestic slavery includes programs, 1) to reduce poverty, 2) provide livelihood development for families at greatest risk for sending their children into slavery, 3) provide water catchment systems and family gardens to enhance nutritional resiliency, and 4) access to quality primary school education for every Haitian child.
Teacher training is an essential element in transforming the conditions that sustain poverty: Access to good schools, adequately prepared teachers, and essential educational resources, will significantly influence Haiti’s national development and ensure that poverty- related practices like child slavery will end once and for all.
In February 2020, the SSND teacher training team arrived on Lagonav to begin part 1 oftheir third year of a multi-year training program.
The focus of the training, determined by our Haitian education counterparts, involved the first of several forthcoming weeklong sessions focusing on concepts and effective methods to teach Math grades k-3. Many of the Haitian teachers have limited opportunities to pursue advanced education. However, they are as dedicated to their own learning as they are to the educational development of their students.
In addition to the hours spent teaching concepts and methods, the SSND trainers also observed the Haitian teachers in their classrooms, and were able to give feedback as well as observe the specific learning needs of the students.
The teachers on Lagonav who are able to be trained because of SSND donor support, are part of a model-school initiative in Haiti called the Matenwa Community Learning Center. The school is considered ‘model’ because it uses mother-tongue (creole), instruction, participatory, learning and nonviolent classroom management skills. The Haitian teachers who participate in the training are a steady cohort of 12 who not only give instruction to children at Matenwa, but also to teachers in under-resourced schools on Lagonav. In this way, this teacher training initiative has a replicator effect.
The SSND instructors in the Haiti Teacher Training Program are faculty in the school of education at the Notre Dame of Maryland University. They meet regularly with Haitian partners to discuss the curriculum and effective methods for the training program. The dialogue and collaboration has brought forth much creativity and innovation.
Teacher Training and COVD restrictions:
Part 2 of the third year of Teacher Training on Lagonav was scheduled for summer, 2020. However, COVID restrictions has made travel to the island impossible. Nevertheless, after much discussion with Haitian colleagues, SSND teacher-trainers have begun creating videos with which virtual training is continued. These videos and the accompanying classroom activity sheets are in the process of development. They will be translated into creole, and made available to the Haitian teachers training during this new Haitian academic year which began November 1. While this is not an ideal situation, it is a creative way of continuing teaching training under unprecedented and very challenging circumstances.
From the beneficiaries of the BVM Teacher Training Grant: Below are some comments received from Haitian Teachers in Training who are the beneficiaries of the BVM grant:
- (Samila) I was happy to learn subtraction with the professors. I learned methods like showing where the tens place goes when subtracting. They taught me how touch counting is a useful tool to help students who have difficulty doing problems in their heads.
- (John) The number comparison activity allows students to become stronger in their comprehension of greater than, less than, or equal to.
- (Guy) I am impressed with the way you did the training. You allowed us to learn many new techniques that work will with my students
- (Dachema) The methods in the training made my teaching more substantial and engaging. Thank you! I am waiting for you to come teach us more again!
- ( Vana) I found the learning activity where the teacher hides the block behind their back and the secret number activity very helpful. I am impressed with the techniques and activities that the professors use in our training.
The SSND Teacher-Training Initiative in Haiti, has been supported by many wonderful collaborators, such as you! Thank you for bringing “education that transforms,” to the people of Haiti.
Arlene Flaherty OP,
SSND Haiti Partnership Manager firstname.lastname@example.org