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#4580: Restaveks : a comment


 The ?Restavèk? issue is not to be ignored. It is evil to the society and must 
be corrected my any means. However, we must not ignore that it is somewhat an 
institution in which most of Ayitian natives place their trust. Getting rid of 
it abruptly as most of us wish can further derail the mean of survival of the 

Before we go on and start jabbing at the issue, we must ask ourselves first why 
does Ayiti have it in the first place? Because the reason is evident does not 
give us the liberty to dismiss it and don?t even consider the means enabling 
the society to deal with it. Until misery/poverty is effectively controlled, 
all efforts and laws aiming at correcting the situation will never bear fruit.

We can?t talk of laws to protect the right of children in a vacuum. They are 
great ideals to hold on to. There maybe zillion of those denouncing the system 
as evil to make the world aware of the problem, but the situation will never 
change as long as the people themselves find it a correct way out to shield 
their children from misery in Ayiti. Those who will speak will soften the 
world?s heart, win prizes for denouncing the system, but they will never uproot 
the evil of the system.

One can write whatever they want and of course they will reach a very limited 
audience that is not a bit affected by it. Even they are touched by it and hope 
to change their stance if they were a supporter of it, their actions would be 
ineffective because the families making their children available are for it 
100%. How to crush the demand for restavèk when the supply of it and the need 
for a helper in relatively well do families keep ever increasing, and poverty 
is at its best in the society? Don?t we think that educating the suppliers of 
restavèk is of utmost importance if changes ought to take place?  

Writing great literary books just won?t cut it, because the situation is 
instituted in the people?s mentality, how to change that requires direct effect 
on those perpetuating such an institution. Enacting laws would be absolutely 
ineffective. Institution is the soul of a people, was not built overnight and 
once toppled will not be forgotten immediately. Thinking of correcting the 
situation requires that we think of it as an institution and treat it as such 
if we hope to change it. These are social difficulties of the problem.

On the other side of the coin, doing away with it very swiftly is not practical 
considering the social infrastructure that must be put in place to make it 
effective. As we are on it, Ayiti is having tremendous difficulty to organize 
itself, how is it that we think, it would be capable to take on such a task?

Identifying a bad situation is one thing, formulating what?s to be done is 
another and making the suggestions expedient is the most crucial key in problem 
solving. To get a real shot at getting rid of restavèk, we must start first at 
the third point. How to make it expedient requires that the causes are dealt 
with properly.

Sometimes one needs to be cynical to be objective and please allow my cynicism 
below for my intent is not to offend. This is in reference to Jean-Robert Cadet 
whose work has great merit. Restavèk is very bad. I agree that it is and most 
of us do. If it were that bad how did Jean-Robert Cadet get to be doing what he 
is doing today and he is not alone. Well some would say that some families are 
good and truly help the restavèk. 

If it is so, the system per se is not that bad as it allows at least one 
individual to escape misery and even become a writer. The risks for this one 
element to remain illiterate, poor or died prematurely were greater than the 
chance to come out a writer or anything else. If one individual can actually 
make concrete the intent of his/her parents when was given away by becoming 
somebody rather than any unwanted kind of being, there is at least some good in 
the system. 

Why don?t we think of whatever is good about it, improve it and make it good 
all the way. At the rate that Ayiti is going, the system is a viable strong 
back up that the country can?t afford losing. Improving the little good that it 
has can be done either, by assisting the host families and conducting an 
education campaign to turn all the bad families into good ones, so they will 
correctly respond to the wish of the families giving away their children. 

We know that the government can?t do that. The responsibilities fall upon the 
privates or some of us who are pounding on the system. What if some us agree to 
sponsor some of the families with little they can provide to assist these 
restavèk kids in bettering themselves. For instance, this is what I put 
underway last summer. I proposed to a student in terminal class at secondary 
level in Ayiti that has financial difficulties to assist him for the academic 
year 1999-2000.

I set up some kind of scholarship funds that would assist him in his school 
expenses for an entire year with the conditions that he has good academic 
performance, note that I did not request excellence from him, and in return 
would tutor one restavèk in his neighborhood. I monitored the result and it has 
been excellent, for both. The student?s academic performance has improved. He 
just took the national exam first part and is waiting for the result. The 
illiterate restavèk of age 10 now knows how to read fluently and perform with 
great ease rudimentary calculations within 8 months. Presently, I am asking 
another student to do the same thing with another restavèk for the upcoming 
academic year. My goal is to have all restavèks in the target neighborhood to 
be literate and be able to integrate the main stream school system. 

I think that improving the system rather than toppling is more practical in 
helping Ayiti doing away with its evil.

Ayiti has lived, lives and will live.


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