October 4 marked the first day of the new school year in Haiti. For many students, this was their first time back in a classroom since last January’s earthquake. Yet, for thousands of young people, massive damage to school buildings and insecure financial and living situations will prevent them from attending school this year.

 
 

School children in the Central Plateau of Haiti.

PIH and its sister organization in Haiti, Zanmi Lasante, believe that access to education is instrumental to breaking the cycle of poverty and disease in poor countries like Haiti. Even before the earthquake, school fees put education out of reach for many families--only about half of Haiti’s 4 million school-aged children could afford to attend classes, according to a pre-earthquake UNICEF report. So from its very beginnings nearly 25 years ago, ZL has worked to help thousands of Haitians gain access to an education. This fall the ZL team has mobilized to continue this commitment.

In the Central Plateau and Artibonite departments of the country, ZL is supporting 30 existing primary and secondary schools and providing school assistance—in the form of tuition, uniforms, school supplies, and books—to roughly 13,000 children of HIV and TB patients, orphans, and children displaced by the earthquake. In addition, the Haitian school system requires that students wear closed-toe shoes to class—shoes can literally provide access to education.  So in preparation for the start of this school year, PIH partnered with TOMS shoes and distributed shoes to 12,000 children in late September. Beyond school expenses, ZL recognizes that nutrition is key to helping children learn. We will continue to provide lunches to 11,000 children each day through our school meal program, with support from World Food Programme.

Knowing that achieving literacy can open doors for people at any age, ZL has also worked to open additional scolarization centers—accelerated education centers for teaching older children and adults how to read and write. These centers aim to enroll 3,400 students during this academic year. In addition to the centers, ZL’s Zanmi Alpha adult literacy classes plan to enroll an additional 1,200 adults in reading classes.
 
Read more about PIH’s work with children affected by the earthquake.
Read a New York Times editorial about Haiti’s post-earthquake education hurdles.

 

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