Part 1: "What If" Your Child Was Starting School In Haiti
With school starting all over the country for most people in the month of August, this is the most logical place to begin our "What If" series about Haiti...
What if your child was starting in school in Haiti?
For our family here in Jacksonville, Sophie and Elijah both started school last Monday, and they were a little nervous starting Kindergarten and First Grade while Zeke still has a couple of weeks before his Pre-K begins.
For our kids in Haiti, there is still more than a month to go before school starts, and our kids will not go through the same stress and uncertainty that most kids and families go through because we have people like you who support them, send them to school, buy their books, and make sure they have uniforms and supplies.
For a few paragraphs, however, let's imagine that you live in Haiti and you have at least 1 child that will be starting school next month. What would it be like? What would you be thinking? What would you be going through right now?
Your first struggle would be finding the right school to send your child to. Most of the schools are filled with teachers who have not received real, formal training and almost none of them have any type of college degree. Most of the schools were started by foreign NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations), the state, or local people who are trying their best to create an educational experience. Almost none of the people mentioned above (especially the NGOs) have any experience starting or running a school, and the vast majority have no educational training.
Almost all of the schools are private, but they normally cost, at most, $300 for the year. Most schools teach in French, a language that your child probably does not speak or understand exceedingly well. A large number of the schools practice corporal punishment as part of their daily routine and your kid can get sent home for something as simple as not having enough braids in their hair.
I mentioned above that schools generally cost, at most, $300/year. What I did not mention is that the average person in Haiti, about 80% of the population, lives on less than $2/day. That means that if you lived in Haiti, there is an 80% chance that you are making less than $2/day. How many kids do you have? If you have 2, then you probably make about the same as their school tuition, so what are you going to do about food, shelter, clothing, etc.? If you have 3 children or more, then real decisions probably have to be made and they are not good ones.
If you send your children to private school right now, then you know most schools require your children to wear uniforms. You probably purchase a few so that you have a couple of extra, and you probably bought them either online or at the school.
If you are living in Haiti, you need a uniform too. To get a uniform there, you will need to go to a local market and purchase your school's material, find a tailor or seamstress who can sew it for you, and then figure out how many uniforms you can afford.
Schools do not provide books for your children either. After finding a school, paying tuition, and getting uniforms made you have to get books and supplies. You will spend time in bookstores, the market, and any other place where a textbook may be found. You will have to decide if you can buy new books or if you will find copies that your school may or may not approve of. Depending on the grade your child is in, you will have to spend an additional $50, $100, or even more on books so that your child does not get behind.
In America, starting school is hard. If your children are young it can be scary and if they are older it can be emotional as you see them nearing the time they will leave your house and start a new life. Some kids love school and do well while others struggle and do not enjoy it at all. However, everyone goes and everyone has the opportunity to go as far as they want in their education.
In Haiti, starting school is hard for a lot of different reasons. If your kids are young, it is a sacrifice to figure out how to both pay for school and feed them on a daily basis. As they grow older, school is more expensive and it is difficult to send even one child to school while providing for the other needs that your family have. If you have more than 1 child it is even more difficult, and if you have 3 or more the vast majority of Haitian families have to choose which of their children will go to school and which ones will stay home...Usually at a very early age.
So, What If Your Children Were Starting School in Haiti This Week?...Your experience would be much different than it was last week or 2 weeks ago here in America. It would be different not because of how you parent or because of what type of student your child is...It would be different simply because by GOD's grace you were born in America and by that same grace of GOD, other people were born in Haiti.