Starting School in Haiti and America (Sophie's First Day)

As many of you know, the past 3 years in Haiti has been full of social and political unrest and general upheaval culminating in President Jovenel's assassination on July 7 of this year. This has had huge implications on the education system in Haiti both in the level of education kids have received and the number of days schools have actually been open. All Things New has not been exempt from theses struggles.

This year, in Haiti, schools will open on September 7, and we have a lot to do before then to get our kids ready. We are working with Gina right now to figure out what we need in terms of supplies/uniforms/backpacks/etc. because we will not be able to send things down this year. We will be asking for donations to help cover these costs as soon as we know what we expect those costs to be.

This blog came to mind because today was Sophie's first day of Kindergarten here in America. She has been in school the past couple of years, but there is something different about a full day in public schools and it has been very emotional for our whole family. She was nervous but excited and we have known her teacher for a long time now and she is wonderful.

For Sophie's first day of Kindergarten, here are some things that I (Matt) have thought and felt:

 - What if she does not make friends right away?

 - What if the kids at her table are mean to her?

 - What if she gets lost on the way back to class?

 - What if she does not understand what is going on?

 - What if I did not prepare her well enough for this?

 - What if a 7 hour school day is too much for her to handle?

 - What if she is scared? Sad? Worried? Gets hurt? 

I know that she is ready for Kindergarten. She is a sweet girl who loves everyone and will do great especially with her new teacher. I know that she is smart and will figure things out and can function independently much better than I giver her credit for. I know she will be safe, have fun, make friends, and be so excited when she gets home. The environment that she is going into for school is about as ideal of an environment as I could imagine and I cannot wait to see her thrive this year even though at least 200 times in the past month I have questioned whether or not she should even go to school.

School in Haiti is not like this at all. The conditions are not conducive to learning. There is no a/c, it is hot, the classrooms are close together, the play area is right next to the learning areas, students are often physically beaten for bad behavior, and there is not a lot of supervision between classes and before and after school. And these are the conditions for one of the best schools in our area!

Walking to and from school for many kids is very dangerous but transportation is very difficult to come by. The opposition and enemies of the Haitian government have routinely used school and students as weapons in their fight against the government with kidnappings and the forcible closure of schools being fairly routine over the past 3 years. Recently things in Haiti have gotten even worse.

Here is how their last 3 years of school in Haiti have looked for our kids and others:

 - 2018/2019 was cut in half in terms of the number of days they attended. Protests and manifestations shut down public education from November through most of the rest of the year.

 - 2019/2020 was marred with many days of school being cancelled by protests and fear, and then Covid hit. Schools were completely shut down from March through the end of the year.

 - 2020/2021 again had a few days of being shut down by protests, but the school year did not even start until the middle of November. Because of that, school was supposed to be open through the end of July. Schools were closed again on June 11 because of a combination of Covid and social upheaval.

Before some of the most recent circumstances happened, we believed Sophie would be starting Kindergarten in Haiti and I am sure she would have done fine. The thing I keep thinking about is, "How could a country function when the education system of Haiti is what it is today?" Even when things in America seem difficult and conditions seem to be getting worse, at least our kids have the opportunity to be educated well and improve their lives. That is not true everywhere.

Here are the takeaways I hope you get from this blog:

 - Thank GOD that our kids here in America have the opportunity for a great education. Pray for your kids' teachers and other teachers who see their classroom as a ministry.

 - Pray for Haiti and that our kids would have an entire school year for the first time since 2017/2018.

 - Pray about helping us get our kids ready for school this year. In the past our sponsors have donated backpacks, school supplies, belts, clothes, etc. This year we cannot get any of those things down to Haiti and we will have to make those purchases in-country. We will be asking for donations to help make this happen, and if you want to donate early, just click here.

 - We cannot say thank you enough to all of our donors and sponsors who help make school a yearly reality for our kids, and especially for First Baptist Church in LaGrange who helps us with school tuition for our kids every year! We are thankful for all of you.

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