Defenders Plus advocates for a thorough evaluation of the start of the school year, taking into account both structural and situational issues.
The right to education is guaranteed in Haiti by the 1987 Constitution, with the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP) serving as the regulatory body. It is also protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international conventions that have been signed and ratified by the Haitian government, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. While it is true that the socio-economic conditions in previous years have always posed challenges to this right in Haiti, this year the socio-economic situation of Haitian families has become even more critical. In other words, the minimum conditions for reopening schools, as proclaimed by the MENFP, are far from meeting the standards observed by Defenders Plus.
The Haitian education system faces various structural challenges such as the absence of a republican education, a lack of qualified personnel, issues related to salary arrears and the appointment of certain teachers, as well as the lack of social and psychological support for both educators and students. In addition to these structural problems, the reopening of schools this year has become increasingly complex due to the acts of violence committed by armed groups in the country and the government’s inaction. In the face of economic decapitalization of the population, the government has not implemented any social support policies, such as subsidies or provision of school materials, to assist the most vulnerable. Furthermore, the Bastien Law, which is supposed to protect parents against excessive school fees, is not effectively enforced. The government has taken no administrative measures to ensure compliance with this law.
The presence of displaced persons is one of the major obstacles to the start of classes this year. Several thousand people are temporarily housed in high schools in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince. Over the past five years, the country has experienced a rapid increase in the number of internally displaced persons. More than 250,000 people are estimated to have been in a situation of homelessness in the country as a result of armed violence. This situation has worsened with the population being held hostage by gangs, with the most affected areas including Cité Soleil, Bel Air, Martissant, Pernier, Solino, areas in the commune of Croix des Bouquets, Tabarre, Petite Rivière de l’Artibonite, Liancourt, Verrettes, and L’Estère, among others. More recently, in July 2023 alone, the International Organization for Migration recorded over 195,000 displaced persons in the departments of West, Center, and Artibonite. In August, the numerous population of Carrefour-Feuilles and other neighboring areas continue to relocate to unknown destinations to escape the fury of gangs that kill, rape, loot, and set houses on fire. In the face of such a situation, what measures has the MENFP taken for a possible suitable start of classes? Consequently, if the MENFP claims to only assess schools serving as shelters, it is far from evaluating the overall situation. In other words, it is engaged in an exaggerated escape strategy that does not truly address the reopening of schools.
Therefore, Défenseurs Plus calls on the de facto government as a whole to create a conducive atmosphere for a real reopening of classes, taking into account the situation of displaced families. They urge the government to make school buildings accessible and subsidize educational materials for the benefit of all children without any distinction.