Monday, 17 October 2011

Loud and new: SOS Schools open their doors again

The sun is burning down. Hundreds of exited kids in new school uniforms sit and walk and run in the school yard and the director opens the new school year with ceremonious words. SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools in Santo and Cap Haitien opened their doors again and teachers now start putting into practice, what they learned during summer.

"I virtually hear the uproar when I see this picture", our colleague said this week via skype. She worked here for SOS Children's Villages Haiti during last school year, when the number of students had increased to 921 due to the after-earthquake emergency situation. This year the number increased again - the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Santo alone is attended by 1,190 children.

This second increase can be explained by the fact, that the SOS Family Strengthening Programme also accepted more children after the earthquake - children who also need to have the chance to go to school. Charles Myrtil, director of the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Santo, together with the national office, found a way to manage the big number of students. Classes take place in two shifts, 19 classrooms are in use (in February the school was extended by hangars of eight classes) and provide space for 34 classes with 35 students each. This way the school was still able to use one classroom as library and at the same time level out the number of students per class in order to enhance quality.

Quality - this lately has been an often discussed topic at the SOS Schools in Haiti. During August, a total of 87 teachers and trainers from Santo and Cap Haitien participated in the second phase of teachers' training with the University Quisqueya. The main question was: How can we enhance the quality of the education we are providing?

But there was also another reason behind this get-together, one that had immediate impact on the students: The teachers rehearsed a song together and presented it at the first school day on 3 October.

By the way, first day of school was scheduled in Haiti for 5 September, but President Michel Martelly decided to delay the start of the school year for four weeks. He nourished his popularity during the long presidential campaign (elections lasted for almost half a year) with the promise of free education in Haiti - a target which is still in an evident distance from reality, despite the delay of the school openings.

Anyhow, also SOS Children's Villages perceives that enhancing access to free and good education as necessary first step in Haiti. Therefore various measures have already been taken; others are in process of being taken. One of those: the construction of the new school Santo 2. Right beside the SOS Children's Village in Santo, a second school is being built. As soon as the 14 classrooms are finished, parts of the students from first and second cycle (first to sixth grade) will visit classes there. And until then... we all hear the uproar when we pass the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School Santo 1.

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