In Haiti, many rural children are unable to attend school. The public school is too far away, and private schools charge tuition, which many rural parents can’t afford. Parents often decide to send their children to live with a family in the city, hoping the family will care their children and send them to school in exchange for a little work around their house. Instead, children are often forced to work all the time, abused, neglected, and never sent to school.
What We Do.
In 25 rural communities on the island of Lagonav, Beyond Borders is working with teachers, parents and grassroots leaders to ensure that every child – regardless of economic status – goes to a high-quality school where they are loved, protected, and educated.
To ensure that students receive a quality education, we mobilize parents to hold the government accountable for using new funding for education in the most responsible and effective way possible.
We also train teachers in a nonviolent, native language, participatory approach to classroom management that is not found in most traditional public and private schools. We believe this approach – developed by our partners at the Matènwa Community Learning Center on Lagonav Island – prepares students to face Haiti’s challenges outside the classroom and build a brighter future. The approach includes six key elements:
Native Language Instruction
Students are taught in Haitian Creole – the language they speak at home – instead of French, a language students rarely encounter in their daily lives. Once students are literate in their native language, teachers introduce French as a second language.
Participatory Approach to Classroom Instruction
Rote memorization of French-language textbooks is the basis of instruction in most classrooms in Haiti. Our participatory-based approach fosters intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills among students. Rather than simply copying, memorizing and parroting back lessons in French, students write their own stories in Haitian Creole about their own lives and share them with each other using a pedagogy employed in elementary schools in the U.S. that are known as The Reading and Writing Project. Developed at the Teachers College of Columbia University, the aim of the project is to “to help young people become avid and skilled readers, writers, and inquirers.”
Nonviolent Classroom Management
Authoritarian classroom management enforced via corporal punishment, shaming and humiliation is the norm in Haitian classrooms. We train teachers in a nonviolent classroom management approach that aims to teach students leadership and democracy by empowering them to develop class rules and manage their own behavior. Teachers hold students accountable to the standards that they themselves established. The approach gives students the opportunity to practice democracy rather than simply be responsive to authoritarian rule.
Education Rooted in Rural Life
Schools in Haiti have largely shunned any classroom connection with rural life and agriculture. By integrating agriculture into the classroom curriculum, we teach skills and develop habits that students will need to thrive and build better lives for themselves where they live, without having to migrate to the city. School gardens teach students agricultural science and mathematics, including techniques to improve yield and mitigate drought driven by climate change. Vegetables grown are used in daily school meal programs, with excess food sold in the market, helping students learn to manage money.
Watch the video: Schools Gardens provide food for daily meals and help students and parents learn how to improve their farming techniques to produce higher yields.
Students who miss out on starting school at age six – either because their parents were too poor to pay tuition fees or because they were sent away to live in restavèk – can catch up on the learning they missed through an Accelerated Education program. The Accelerated Education pedagogy provides over-aged children two years of the national curriculum in a single year. Once students are caught up to their grade level, they are mainstreamed into the appropriate grade level.
Schools are equipped with textbook banks, and students borrow books on a sliding scale fee, according to their ability to pay. The banks ensure that no student goes without the textbooks they need to be successful learners.