How many of you had to stand up during class in high school because of a lack of desks and chairs? I, along with many of my former high school classmates and friends had to do just that because we lived in Haiti. I knew it was not normal then and know it is not normal now. The broken or non-existent public education system in Haiti, the horrible, inhuman living conditions of more than seven million Haitians, and the absence of leadership in the Haitian government have motivated me to set my objectives and goals in life. I aim to do whatever it takes, within ethical and legal boundaries, to ensure that in the future, students in Haiti can have a seat in the classroom and that all Haitians can enjoy better living conditions than the substandard one they have now.
Haiti, a country known today, unfortunately, for its political instabilities and poverty, was once known for its rich history and beauty. Haiti was the richest of French colonies in 1789 and the first independent black nation in the world. It has now been 204 years since Haiti gained its independence. When you compare Haiti to other nations, that is 158 years before Jamaica gained its independence, 67 years before Germany, 57 years before Italy, 18 years before Brazil, and so on. In short, Haiti is the 23rd oldest independent country in the world out of more than 158 independent nations. Yet, after all these years, Haiti’s only claim is being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the top kidnapping capitals in the Americas in 2006. According to an article published by Reuters Foundation August 15, 2006, “Haiti has replaced Colombia as the kidnapping capital of the Americas”.
As a Haitian, I undoubtedly am not alone in wanting to see improvements during my lifetime and refuse to believe that the status quo is our destiny as a nation.
Of particular concern to me is the public education system in Haiti. The lack of resources and insufficient funding have crippled the public education system in Haiti over the past two decades. I am a product of the public education system in Haiti and I know firsthand. As mentioned previously, public high schools in Haiti are always overcrowded. It is not unusual to have anywhere between 80-120 students in a small classroom. With not enough seats, many students have no choice but to stand if they want to learn. Compounding the education crisis is the fact that teachers seldom receive a paycheck causing chronic absenteeism and sub-par teaching quality.