Haitian Schoolchildren Gear Up for Safety and Learning with USAID Support

[Port-au-Prince] – The U.S. government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is helping Haitian students get back to school safely and to be better prepared to learn for the 2020-2021 academic year through the distribution of books and essential sanitation and hygiene materials.  USAID partnered with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to distribute French and Creole reading, learning, and teaching materials to first and second grade students and teachers in 600 schools throughout Haiti.  To keep students learning in a safe environment while preventing the spread of COVID-19, USAID partnered with the Caris Foundation and UNICEF to distribute handwashing stations, buckets, soap, chlorine, and COVID-19 awareness pamphlets to 300 schools in five departments.

U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Michele Sison said: “The U.S. government is committed to helping Haitian children go back to school safely with the materials they need to succeed in the classroom.  Our goal is to work with our partners to help students acquire the education and skills they need to grow and contribute to the long-term success of the Haitian economy.”

With USAID support, UNOPS distributed the first and second grade curriculum materials from the USAID and Haitian Ministry of Education (MENFP)-sponsored literacy program, M’ap li net ale (Haitian Creole) and Je parle bien français (French) to the 600 schools supported by USAID, the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, University of Notre Dame USA, and other donors and partners like the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, WK Kellogg Foundation, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Haiti, and the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education (CEEC), to name just a few.  84,089 first and second grade students received 294,705 reading books, while 3,999 first and second grade teachers received 23,994 teaching and learning materials.

With COVID-19, going back to school this year presented additional challenges.  Once again, USAID and its partners stepped in to fill the gap in water and sanitation infrastructure in schools.  Through Caris Foundation International and the University of Notre Dame USA, USAID equipped 310 schools in the North, Artibonite, Center, South, and Grand’Anse departments with handwashing stations, buckets, soap, chlorine, and COVID-19 information pamphlets.  This equipment and educational material will help 30,000 students wash their hands regularly so they can reduce the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19.  In addition, 820 teachers received critical personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and visors.  Teachers will use these resources to continue to educate students on the importance of handwashing and maintaining proper hygiene and healthy habits, creating a positive culture of health and hygiene in their school communities.

USAID and partners will continue to help Haitian students learn better throughout the year through the Strong Beginnings program, in partnership with University of Notre Dame USA and other partners.  Strong Beginnings will continue to help teachers improve their teaching skills using USAID’s M’ap Li Net Ale (Haitian Creole) program.  The M’ap Li Net Ale  and Je parle bien français (French) curriculum have been proven to improve first and second grade literacy through a scripted curriculum that includes textbooks, classroom libraries, and structured reading teacher guides to improve children’s writing and reading in Creole and French.

Strong Beginnings will also extend Read Haiti’s radio program which began in June 2020 on 14 radio stations in five departments in Haiti to provide families and children with opportunities to learn and grow while schools were closed due to the pandemic.  This radio programming provides additional resources for social and emotional learning, interactive activities for younger students, and strategies for parents to support young learners at home.

“The radio program is very important for my child,” said Wana, whose daughter Woodley is in first grade.  “This program filled many gaps in reading and writing for my daughter during the period of quarantine.  The program’s presenters are very clear, and it’s as if the students are back in the classroom.”

USAID Mission Director Chris Cushing said: “USAID will continue to work with schools, parents, and churches to address developmental and learning needs of Haitian children to improve their literacy skills and set them on the path to success.”