Building peace in the minds of men and women

Haiti: change comes through education

Changing the way the world sees Haiti -- that is the stated intention of all the senior authorities met by the Director-General during her official visit of 16 to 18 September 2013.

The transformation of Haiti is based primarily on education, the Government’s pillar and priority in combatting poverty, reducing inequality and promoting social inclusion, according to the Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe. This intention is reflected in President Martelly’s pledge to ensure that all children between the ages of six and 12 go to school. In less than three years, 1.2 million children have thus ended up in school; while measures have been taken to improve school transport, increase the number of school canteens and provide subsidies to families. The Prime Minister described UNESCO as “a partner of choice” and welcomed the Organization’s contribution to introducing an operational plan for education for 2010 to 2015, calling for this support to be maintained.

The most important challenge the Government now wishes to meet concerns the quality of education, with the project of organizing a national conference on the matter by the end of the year.

“What is important is what happens in classrooms,” said the Minister of National Education and Vocational Training, Pierre Vanneur.

UNESCO has a stake in this goal, with two key projects to revise curricula and train teachers – a major undertaking in a country where 80% of teachers lack qualifications. Mr Vanneur emphasized the importance of dialogue, the culture of results and the status of teachers. He also noted the value of the support provided by UNESCO in the field of collecting statistics, vital information in defining the strategic direction of the education system.

The Prime Minister also drew attention to the enhancement of cultural skills backed by UNESCO, and to the potential of tourism in a country with many cultural and natural treasures.

Culture as a vector of social cohesion, a source of employment and growth, was also on the agenda of discussions with the Minister of Culture and Communication, Josette Darguste, and the Minister of Tourism, Stéphanie Balmir Villedrouin, after the Director-General’s visit to the Citadel Henri, the Palace of Sans Souci and the buildings at Ramiers, a site on the World Heritage List. The areas of cooperation mentioned included training for tourist guides at the Citadel Henri, support for informal artists to give them the means to set up their own workshops, access to culture through music and the creation of cultural spaces for disadvantaged young people.

The Director-General welcomed the Government’s resolve, noting the considerable progress made since her last visit in March 2010, just after the earthquake.

“The earthquake also shook consciences, and from the outset UNESCO rallied to Haiti. I see the determination of your President and of your Government to rebuild Haiti. The free-of-charge school programme is a revolution in education. I can see great strides forward and I wish to assure you that we will support these efforts in the long term.”

Education, she also emphasized, must convey civic values, so as to help young people become responsible citizens, committed to building the future of their country.

“We want to show Haiti in a new light and to leave behind us the pessimistic image of the country,” said the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship, Pierre-Richard Casimir. “Haiti is working to open itself to the world,” citing as an example three international summits held since the beginning of the year.

The Director-General was accompanied throughout her visit by the Special Envoy for Haiti, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, and Ms Vanessa Matignon, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Haiti to UNESCO.