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6518: Durban Reports on Education in Abricot (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 2 Jan 2001 06:00:34 -0800 (PST)
From: Lance Durban <lpdurban@yahoo.com>
To: Bob Corbet <corbetre@webster.edu>
Subject: Durban Reports on Education in Abricot

Haiti has a number of dedicated folks working in remote locations, and a
Christmas Day hike to the fishing village of Abricot (on the far western
end of the southern peninsula), led to an interesting afternoon with
Patrick de Verteuil, who has lived there with his wife, Michaelle, for the
past 25 years.  (I had met Patrick quite by chance some 20 years ago while
working on a low cost U.N. housing project, and vaguely knew he was still
out there, so just finding him was the first challenge).

Patrick and his wife had ?retired? there from Canada to establish a rural
school for children of 10 years of age (min) who had never gone to school.
 Theory being that these were kids who probably were never going to get to
school otherwise.  They presently have about 500 children in their school
and assist  10 other rural schools through a structured teacher training
program.  These other schools are a 2 to 4 hour walk from the nearest
roads and teachers? salaries are a mere H$70 per month (US$15), financed
partially by the parents of the students.  These parents generally have
had no formal education themselves and have to sacrifice to send a child
to school.  There is a U.S. school feeding program operating through
Catholic Relief Service (CRS), and Patrick spoke highly of previous USAID
Director Phyllis Forbes who stuck her neck out by approving the program in
spite of the physical impossibility of sending regular inspectors to each
distribution point.  The rural schools act as something of a filter, with
the better students continuing in Abricot and perhaps moving into a small
handicraft/sewing/pottery business which the de Verteuil?s have created
with some help from volunteers.

Recalling a question on the Corbett List of a month ago, I asked Patrick
if Haiti could reasonably expect to reproduce the literacy program of Cuba
anytime soon.  The short answer: Forgettaboutit!  And why?  Castro?s Cuba
in 1959 started out with a higher proportion of the population ?literate?
(maybe 40% he guessed), so Cuba was better able to encourage learning in
small groups, a mainstay of Castro?s Cuban literacy campaign.  No only
does Haiti start with a much lower level of literacy than Cuba did, but
those who are literate are literate in French, not in the language of the
masses.  Furthermore, those who are literate tend to be clustered in a
relatively few cities, far from the illiterate rural masses.  And finally,
even in those cities, social class structure on top of the 2 language
problem make any literacy campaign in Haiti a most difficult proposition. 
Of course, this does not mean we shouldn?t promote literacy in Haiti,
merely that searching for a quick fix solution may be fool?s errand.

Lance Durban 


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