Haitian Children Get a Fresh Start at School
Save the Children Constructs Prototype School at Quake Epicenter
Westport, Conn - As the new school year officially winds into full swing today, children in Haiti are returning to the routine that is so important for their well-being in the wake of January’s earthquake.
While the country continues to struggle with clearing rubble, rebuilding homes and reestablishing infrastructure, schools in Haiti have been striving to make this new school year a fresh start for students.
“We know that in any emergency children are always the most vulnerable,” says Gary Shaye, country director for Save the Children in Haiti. “Providing them with a normal routine, a safe environment and opportunities to access a quality education are critical to helping children heal and move forward from what is still a massive catastrophe.”
Many children are excited to return to school, and some will be attending for the first time. It is estimated that half of Haitian children did not go to school prior to the earthquake, and more than half of those who did dropped out of school before Grade 6.
Rebuilding Safe Schools
Safer construction has been at the center of plans for rebuilding schools. Save the Children has rebuilt the Institut Abélard in Léogâne, at the epicenter of the earthquake. It is an example of disaster risk reduction construction principles taken to the next level — it features innovative yet simple techniques that make it more hurricane- and earthquake-resistant than buildings erected prior to the January 12 quake. The construction techniques used have been studied by both private builders and non-governmental organizations. The school serves as an example of best practices and as a prototype for building other schools around the country.
Since the quake, Save the Children has partnered with more than 270 schools to provide support such as tents and school furniture, school kits for children and teacher training.
Particular focus was given at the outset of the emergency to providing teachers with training on reducing the impact of disasters on children, addressing the psychological and social needs of children affected by the earthquake, and applying positive practices in the classroom.
“Education is the key to freedom. Both the school and Save the Children know it is our duty to educate children. To work in education is a matter of the heart,” says Joseph Constant, school director at École Mixte Etzer Vilaire des Orangers in Jacmel, Haiti.
Even young students are aware of the importance of going back to school. Nine-year-old Cynthia is excited to return to school and has been trying to continue learning even during the summer break.
“Without education people will be afraid,” she says, showing wisdom beyond her years.
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