Our experiences in Education and Training
The shark and dolphin community
This community, the Credo, in Cap Haitien was Denis' first strong experience.
It is a community revealed during its first stay in Haiti, in summer 1981, when making contact with the beneficiaries of parcels sent by Enfance et Partage. This is the reason for Denis' return to Haiti in January 1982, after an SOS sent by the head of the community, Brother Marcel, Canadian to come and take care of these young people.
The objective of the community is to transform sharks (delinquents, most of them detained in prison and handed over to Brother Marcel) into dolphins by learning to live together and work. Indeed, these young people, about thirty, worked hard by breaking and cutting large rocks to build the access road and the development of platforms to house the buildings. The land allocated to the community, sloping towards a cliff overlooking the sea, was made up mainly of large rocks.
Denis' intervention was very beneficial by the care given to these young people, most of whom were sick with numerous wounds and abscesses in their legs. From dawn until dusk, the first two months were spent dressing, giving injections, distributing medicines. After three months of intensive care, most of these abscesses were resolved.
Then came the time for the rudiments of teaching, reading, writing and arithmetic, the vast majority of these young people being illiterate. Later, even a small fishing boat helped to improve the diet, which was mostly donated. Meals mostly consisted of a bowl of wheat, morning, noon and night. The living conditions were very harsh and dependent on small donations from a few capois (inhabitant of Cap Haitien) concerned.
This experience lasted nearly seven months, to see Denis "land" in Cité Soleil where the adventure of the Saint-Alphonse's school began.
The Saint-Alphonse Schools
After having "land" in the Cité Soleil, we worked as a priority in education to better reach and supervise the children of these disadvantaged neighborhoods.
At the outset, ESA enrolled students completely free of charge to encourage them to receive basic education and to get parents used to sending children to school as early as possible and regularly.
The ESA, then that of the annex of Brooklyn, in the cardboard city, in the heart of a very unhealthy district, gradually took shape. The already significant participation of parents was to buy the uniform, shoes and school supplies. The classes have multiplied, from kindergarten to primary then secondary classes, opening one after another with the rise in upper class.
Work at the Cité Soleil has never been easy, with political events following one after the other: the Duvalier regime with the “tontons macoutes” until 1986, the unstable military regimes then the coming to power of the President Aristide, the "coup d'etat" followed by unparalleled repressions, the FRAPH, chimeras, armed gangs,… Cité Soleil has rarely known moments of lasting absolute calm. And there, we congratulate all the employees and teachers, often braving all the dangers to go to school.
Sanitary conditions are also very difficult. Cité Soleil is located by the sea, on old marshes, very flood prone because it is located at the end of the rainwater course from the Pétionville and Delmas hills.
ESA's activities developed after the acquisition of new land in 1986 and the first constructions financed by the French Embassy. Cultural and sporting activities (Institut français d'Haïti), the school canteen (CRS and BND), the community dispensary, school health, the nutritional recovery center, parties and days, professional workshops, educational training (DCC, Agir). A literacy program for young people and adults has also been set up. An orphanage has also enabled more than twenty children not to fall into delinquency and to access school and professional studies. Several alumni are also members of the management of Saint-Alphonse schools and founding members of FODEP.
A Board of Directors, the CASA, was gradually set up with members of the management, representatives of teachers, students and parents. CASAF followed for the Fourgy annex.
This integration of the Haitian team in the administrative and financial management of schools is important but schools cannot achieve financial autonomy because local resources are too minimal. The participations, in the form of schooling, have been established for many years. Even while remaining very moderate (10 to 20 usd / year), a good part of the parents have difficulty paying it and often in a partial way.
The current financial conditions, the budgetary difficulties and the degraded socio-economic conditions which the population face, prevent to work in serene conditions and the development of the pupils.
OEP or Organization of Provincial Schools
The Cité Soleil mixed school Saint-Alphonse was the starting point for all our actions in Haiti. Cité Soleil brings together people from various departments and allows for many exchanges. Thus, wishing to do upstream work to avoid the massive rural exoduses that we were witnessing, many visits to the provinces were organized with directors of schools of knowledge.
This is how we were able to build or redevelop certain schools, such as La Gonâve (1992), Miragoâne (1992), Thomonde (1993) and Montrouis (1994). Other directors contacted us and together, it was decided to set up an organization to bring them together, called the OEP, the Organization of Provincial Schools, created in April 1993. The OEP had up to 30 schools spread over 8 departments out of 10, with an enrollment of more than 5,300 students, especially primary. The OEP was made up of two representatives from each school.
Following the emergency programs of Echo (Emergency Agency of the European Community), we organized from the end of 1994, regular visits to OEP schools (on trips of 5 to 10 days) and pu develop emergency programs such as:
1- A school canteen with a supply of various food products, purchased on local markets and kitchen utensils.
2- School screening sessions for students with care and follow-up, consultation extended to other neighboring schools.
3- Educational meetings with directors and teachers, the level of teachers being generally low, most of them having a secondary level, before Bacc.
4- Contribution of a small library (around fifteen schools were able to benefit from it).
The OEP, recognized by the Ministry of Social Affairs in April 1999, gradually got organized. In the beginning, the teachers were followed by a pedagogical advisor from the Saint-Alphonse school, then more regular follow-up visits were scheduled by Haitians and expatriates, thanks to funding from SOS Enfants, three to four times per year during the years 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Then, we organized five-day educational seminars, once or twice a year, at the Center de la Plaine (Fourgy) which also became the headquarters of the OEP from 1998 to 2002. These seminars also included a health section for two representatives from each school, with the allocation of a health kit, including basic materials and drugs.
These meetings were very enriching for all and allowed us to discover rural areas, often very remote, in 4X4, on horseback or even on foot and to better understand the reality of life in the provinces.