Feature Stories

State-of-the-Art School Gives Haiti’s Children New Beginning

The Zoranje middle school is restoring a modicum of normalcy for children whose lives were devastated by Haiti's January 2010 earthquake.
The Zoranje middle school is restoring a modicum of normalcy for children whose lives were devastated by Haiti's January 2010 earthquake.

Fabienne S. says her favorite school subject is English because, “I love the language of the people who come from other places to Haiti. I want to be able to communicate with them.”

Now that she’s attending 8th grade at the Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje school that JDC recently helped build and open in partnership with Prodev Foundation, she’ll be able to do just that.*

The state-of-the-art, handicap-accessible campus includes kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools. Thirty-seven teachers work with a student body of 650 kids, 25-30% of whom are considered internally displaced people in Haiti following the earthquake. The school follows the national education curriculum but also offers modern teaching methods, extracurricular activities like arts, music, science, sports, and of course, Fabienne’s favorite subject.

Fabienne will be learning English in part through a special program called Teach the World Online, a volunteer-based initiative that uses Skype to connect kids in classrooms around the globe with native English-speaker teachers. Volunteers and students alike find it incredibly exciting to meet each other over the internet and get to know each others’ different ’worlds.’

Lucien S., Fabienne’s Social Studies teacher, says the Zoranje school is special “because the administration understands the reality in Haiti and does a lot to help the children get a good education. The school is adaptive to the conditions in the country.”

Even before the January 2010 earthquake—one of recent history’s worst natural disasters—Haiti was considered the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The quake killed over 300,000 people and left an estimated 1.3 million people homeless. Two years on, over 515,000 people live in displaced persons camps. 50% of the population is under the age of 21 and the country has a reported 60% illiteracy rate. Educating this large number of young people to ensure the country’s hopeful future is not easy, but Zoranje is a promising start.

The school is based in a town of approximately 5,000 people, 30 minutes outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. JDC equipped the school with a water well, tank, and pump. JDC also built a Mother and Child Clinic as part of the Zoranje campus, which will serve as a health education center, teaching the kids and the community about basic hygiene and disease prevention. The clinic will be operated by another JDC partner, Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health, and will offer basic medical services, vaccinations, and HIV/AIDS prevention; as well as family planning, pre-natal services to expectant mothers, and care for babies and toddlers.

The Zoranje school is meant to be a model that will be replicated in other parts of Haiti in the future. The experience and expertise gained here will offer lessons to expanding the network of schools—and changing the reality of education in Haiti.

As Fabienne’s teacher points out, “education is a good investment in Haiti because it will help Haiti have more responsible citizens who can contribute to its development. Investing in the education of Haiti’s children is the answer to many of this country’s problems.”

Fabienne is eager to become a doctor and knows Zoranje is an important first step, especially considering where she came from. Before moving to this community with her parents and five older siblings, Fabienne lived in Cité Soleil, an extremely poor and densely populated area in Port-au-Prince, often referred to as “the slums.” She used to spend three hours every day just getting to and from school, leaving little time for homework.

Today, her daily reality is starkly different—and a lot more promising. With a huge smile she says, “Thank you for allowing me and so many kids who were unable to go to school previously come to Zoranje.”

*The state-of-the-art, handicap-accessible middle school in Zoranje was built and opened by JDC in partnership with Bonita Trust

Tags for this story: Children, Education, Youth / Young Adults

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