Jean-Marie Théodat provides new perspectives on basic and higher education programs in Haiti.
One of the major challenges our generation is facing in Haiti is the lack of education and human resources in the rebuilding of a sustainable society. Traditionally Haiti has been counting on foreign countries for the definition of its higher education framework. During the 18th and 19th century, Haitian students who could afford it would usually go to France to study, then come back home with their diplomas. Since then we have not managed to create an efficient higher education system in the country.
Nowadays the situation is even worse. Much in our higher education system depends on foreign help. The same goes for primary and secondary schools: among the élites, many children leave the country with one or sometimes both parents in order to find better schooling in foreign lands. This situation makes it even more likely for them to stay abroad after their education and put their knowledge and competence at the service of the countries where they studied. In order to build a better future for the country, we must fight against this trend and provide Haitian students with a quality education at home. How can this goal be reached?
Obviously, there is a lack of pedagogical in both Creole and French—Haiti’s two official languages. Furthermore a recent survey shows that only 5% of Haitian teachers master French—the language that is most widely used in the Haitian education system.
There is a new Creole adjective, coined by Haitian scholar Enock Franklin, to convey the idea that we, Haitians, are « pokofòn », that is, « not yet speakers ». By and large, we master neither Creole or French: we speak but barely can write Creole, while we write but hardly speak French.
This is one of the most difficult challenges that our country must overcome in order to move forward and achieve sustainable development.
My proposal is to take advantage of the existence of a network called CLAC (Centre de Lecture et d’Action Culturelle) in order to promote both Creole and French by putting within the reach of a large public the very rich oral heritage of the former and current troubadours who are the shepherds of a long artistic tradition. The collective memory of our culture is in delicate balance on a scale where literature is given most prominence. “Oraliture” is the less prestigious, yet most sensitive, scale that keeps our culture in balance. Thus, let’s give Haitian oraliture the opportunity to enter the CLAC by translating in both languages the lyrics of the most popular Haitian songs that have been composed since the 17th century.
Besides, it’s time to translate other universal treasures that are still inaccessible to Haitian Creole speakers. Most Haitian authors have written in French. Let’s translate their texts into Creole so they can be read in both languages. As we do this, we shall find a way to enhance the level of education of the general population by involving civil society in the promotion of a global culture that would be based, not only on foreign tools and values, but also on local contents and know-hows.
A French and Creole encyclopedia should be constructed to provide the basic knowledge any student needs in order to help build a more responsible citizenry in Haiti. Mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, etc., must be made fully accessible to students. For now, most Haitian students are not properly taught any of this. Indeed, most teachers lack basic competence in the main tool that is imposed on them for their trade, namely the French language. There is, therefore, an urgent need for a new perspective on education in Haiti—one that we hope can be promoted by, among other means, technology-enhanced pedagogies.