Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Teachers’ training enters second phase

SOS Children’s Villages Haiti contracted the faculty of education studies of local Quisqueya University to give teachers further training and renew the curriculum. The teachers’ training enters phase II as 66 Haitian teachers receive classes in August 2011.

Most Haitian newspapers are written in French. An estimated 95 percent of the Haitian population are not proficient in French. An estimated 51 percent are not able to read at all.

The Haitian educational system has added to existing social inequalities over the past decades. As part of the emergency work after the earthquake in 2010, SOS Children‘s Villages decided to focus on the field of education in order to be able to provide sustainable contributions to the process of change.

A typical lesson in Haiti is a one-way street: the children simply echo what the teacher says. In order to learn about the student’s needs and teach them to have their own ideas, to think themselves and decide independently, this system must change. Of course, this has to be done step by step and starts with the training of teachers.

On Monday 1 August, the second phase of the teachers’ training started in Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince. Forty-two professors of the SOS Hermann Gmeiner school participated in the intense summer programme provided by the faculty of education studies of the well-established university. Two weeks later, on 15 August, the course started for 44 teachers in Cap Haitien. The teachers receive a total of 60 hours of free training and a certificate of participation.

Francis Faroutine, national coordinator for education with SOS Children’s Villages Haiti, on the first impact of the classes: “The presentations are good and the facilitators from Quisiqueya University do a good job. Even though this phase of the training is quite intense for our teachers, they are motivated and participate actively”.

At the official inauguration of the teachers’ training phase II, co-workers from different working areas of SOS Children‘s Villages in Haiti were present. Ilu Valenzuela, from the international support team of SOS Children‘s Villages Haiti, says: “We want a school with quality: human quality, technical quality and professional quality”.She believes that education will enable the children to become independent and self-confident and that it is important to pay attention to the needs and rights of the children. A remarkable detail is that she gave her inauguration speech in Haitian Creole, which by now is spoken - at least on a basic level - by every member of the international team.

1620 students visited classes in the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools in Santo and Cap Haitien past school year, and there may be up to 2119 in coming year. This increase is related to current construction works: a second school is being built in Santo, which is scheduled to open its doors to new students at beginning of 2012.

In fact, the actual contract with Quisqueya University over the intensive course for teachers as well as a renewal of the curriculum, is already the second phase of the teachers’ training programme in Haiti. It is based on the previous work of Bettina Reiter, a voluntary from Austria. A team of international and national co-workers of SOS Children‘s Villages Haiti had analysed the current situation and teaching methodologies in the SOS Hermann Gmeiner school in Santo and Bettina Reiter developed a plan for teacher training. Following this plan, she provided classes and work sessions from March to June 2011. Before the end of her stay in Haiti, she took part in the negotiations with Quisqueya University, during which a follow-up plan for the training was set up.

The third phase, which is to start in 2012, will be a permanent training centre for teachers in Santo. In an interview in January 2011, Heinrich Mueller, deputy secretary general and continental director for Latin America and the Caribbean, points out the importance of a more individual form of education: “Each child has a certain level of development and the teachers should find out at which level they are. Based on that, they should provide individual support to each student, according to his or her education and development”.

Haiti has a long way to go until every child attends a school and the majority of the population is able to read the newspaper. SOS Children’s Villages was searching for ways to create a more permanent impact than just building new schools. The teachers’ training is meant to open up new aspects and perspectives; first to teachers and through them to the students. After all, as Henry Brooks Adams once put it: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."