indeed, a radical. I happen to agree – the Rev. Dr. King WAS radical in calling for social justice and peace at that time.
What does this have to do with Haiti? Superficially, the two are connected by the calendar - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day comes just a few days after the two-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti [January 12, 2010]. The man, the place, however, share themes of social justice and peace.
Peace and justice. These two ideas, concepts, attributes, values have infected my spiritual life. Each day, I endeavor to strengthen peace-building skills and to actively participate in the call for justice. As I continue to learn about the vision of education Jeanette Felix, founder of Children in Need Haitian Project, has for L'Espinasse School and the people of Haiti, I find myself drawn to its threads of justice and peace.
It is accepted knowledge that education is the way out of poverty. Education is not a given in Haiti. There are numerous hurdles on a journey for education. Before the earthquake, Haiti’s education system was dysfunctional:
-- About 50% of school-age children were enrolled in school.
-- About 20% of schools were public.
-- Although public schools are free, families struggled to pay for uniforms, textbooks and supplies.
-- There were not enough public schools to accommodate the children of Haiti.
-- Few schools were located in remote areas.
-- Private schools are too expensive for the poor.
-- The quality of education was poor, as one third of teachers have 9 years of education [i.e., if you can
read and write, and made it to high school, you can teach others to do the same]
After the earthquake, the school system was devastated. More than 3,000 schools were destroyed or damaged. Hundreds of teachers and thousands of students were killed. Even with schools reopening, less students are returning to school than were in school before the earthquake.
Two stats are stunning:
45% of the Haitian population are children.
50% of the Haitian population is illiterate.
If a child enrolls in school, it does not guarantee their ‘education.’ Learning how to read and write is not enough. When Haitian students complete 6th grade, they must pass an exam in order to advance to the upper grades to continue their studies. Most students do not possess the skills and knowledge necessary to pass the exams. If a student does not pass, they may repeat 6th grade and retake the exams. This process can repeat itself for several years. It is not uncommon to find 15-year-olds in a 6th grade classroom. If the exam proves too difficult to pass, students are, in a very real sense, stuck.
Enter Jeanette’s vision: L'Espinasse is the school that is the best by any standard -- a school that:
-- provides an environment conducive to learning.
-- lays a strong foundation of skills, knowledge, and understanding.
-- effectively prepares its students for the upper grades.
-- instills Christian values.
-- cultivates higher order thinking skills.
-- promotes innovation and cooperative problem-solving.
-- builds community.
-- employs qualified faculty.
-- has a computer lab, a playground, a library.
L’Espinasse School is already on the road towards Jeanette’s vision. 2 of the 4 instructors employed at the school are trained teachers. A team of educators [me!] will be visiting the school in April 2012 to mentor the teachers and work with the students.
The vision can become reality. You can help. Click on the link in the right sidebar for more information on how you can advance the vision.
Together, you and I can make an impact, one that will be felt for many years to come - one person at a time, one child at a time, in peace with justice.
God’s work, our hands.
“If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”
~ The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Until next time, be well.