Haiti: three schools rise in rural areas
19 April 2012

The new school at St Michael's is visible on the right, below the old church. The school has 113 students and opened for classes in October 2011. (Christian Fuchs/JRS)
The project to bring these schools to Thiotte leveraged community support to bring the building phase to a successful conclusion. Locally available building materials and labour were instrumental in the construction of the new schools.
Thiotte, 19 April 2012 – Students in three communities in and around this small town of Thiotte in the mountains of Haiti have been able to move into new schools because of a partnership between Jesuit Refugee Service USA and the Sacred Heart Parish.

JRS USA has contributed US$135,000 for the construction of the three new schools, and is providing a stipend for teachers of US$5,000 to each school for two years. In additional, JRS USA provided US$25,500 for 560 desks at the three schools.

The St Mary Magdalene School in central Thiotte was built on an empty lot behind the church. Construction started last July and the school opened on 5 December. Currently there are 220 students in total, enrolled in three preschool classes, one elementary and two middle school classes.

There are eight teachers, who, like those at the other two schools, were recruited through the parish. Although the teachers are not yet professional, they have received training and will gain teaching experience at St Mary Magdalene before completing their training.

"The students are very happy. They never had classrooms or school materials before, now they have chairs, desks and a recreation area. It is like a fantasy", said Fr Louiders Jean Pierre of Sacred Heart Parish.

"It's like entering a new house", added school principal Wilcar Theodore.

Faced with challenges. After the earthquake of January 2010, more than 7,000 people were displaced from the affected area and sought shelter with relatives in Thiotte. Another influx consisted of people who returned from the Dominican Republic to help care for family members affected by the earthquake. As a result, enrolment in local primary schools increased about 25 percent.

The second school, St Anthony’s, has risen in the jungle in the remote Bois d'Orme area near Thiotte.

The Bois d'Orme community is isolated and the road is terrible and rocky. It is a single-track up and down steep hills through dense trees, and can only be driven in four-wheel drive equipped vehicles. People walking it have to step into the brush to make way for passing trucks.

Students had previously been meeting outdoors under tarpaulins, but their new school has five classrooms, an office and a latrine.

"There are currently 78 students, but each day more students show up. Word of mouth spreads the news about classes and so more students attend", said Fr Jean Pierre.

The 'nearby' public school is over-crowded – nearby being a relative term, as it means a strenuous hike over several hills in the rugged landscape – and Fr Jean Pierre believes some students will leave there to attend the new parish school.

"Normally, Bois d'Orme is a farming community, but the rains were light last year which caused additional hardships. In addition to farming, community members trade goods at the Dominican Republic border, which is not far. This is one of the poorest communities along the border," said Fr Jean Pierre.

Many children attending school are underfed, and Fr Jean Pierre is seeking a way to provide a meal or two to them while they are at school.

The third new school is St Michael's, on the grounds of a church on the mountain road outside Thiotte. St Michael's currently has 113 students, and classes started in the new building in October 2011. Previously students met in the dilapidated church.

The project to bring these schools to Thiotte leveraged community support to bring the building phase to a successful conclusion. Locally available building materials and labour were instrumental in the construction of the new schools. 

The long-term outlook for the schools of Sacred Heart Parish is good, as at least two of them have already been in operation for five years. Additionally, the Diocesan office will absorb the upkeep costs of the new buildings and infrastructure. The move into the new buildings bodes well for the continued education of students in the area. 

Jesuit Refugee Service USA believes that given educational opportunities, young people are able to build their communities and thus to strengthen and stabilise their countries for generations to come.



Press Contact Information
James Stapleton
international.communications@jrs.net
+39 06 69 868 468