Education International
Education International

Interview with Jean Lavaud, General Secretary of CNEH, Haiti’s education union

published 3 June 2010 updated 3 June 2010

What key measures were adopted at the recent meeting between your National Executive and the federations to rebuild the education system in Haiti? We agreed to do a number of things. Firstly, we will ensure that the teachers’ unions, including the Confédération nationale des éducateurs d’Haiti(CNEH), form an integral part of the National Committee for Reconstruction. The CNEH National Executive was also mandated to lobby the Haitian government to deliver on its responsibilities for the education system. Delegates at the meeting understood that this was an historic opportunity for key players in the education sector, particularly CNEH, to make a full contribution to help and advise the government to meet its constitutional responsibility to provide good quality public education for all. We agreed to develop counselling and social support measures for teachers and pupils, and to organise meetings in all the associations and federations in order to energise them to recruit new members. The dates for the CNEH Congress were also set as 17–19 September, 2010. In what ways are EI, its affiliates and teachers’ unions around the world helping teachers in Haiti? EI and our colleagues from other unions around the world must continue to call on the Haitian government to prioritise education so that Haitian children can finally get a chance to go to school. Colleagues must also urge our government to provide good quality public education for all. There is still so much to be done and we welcome the solidarity and support we have from EI members. What are the main needs of your members? There is a need for decentralised activities to provide trade union and vocational training for new members. We also need communications equipment urgently, items such as laptop computers for access to the Internet, as well as motorcycles to make it easier for union officers to travel from one place to another, and to facilitate communication between them and the CNEH members. What has been accomplished since the earthquake? The government has begun clearing the rubble and repairing schools. Pupils are hesitantly resuming lessons. Unfortunately, many teachers in the private sector have lost their jobs because the government has not done anything for them and most private schools have closed down. What are the next stages in the reconstruction of the Haitian education system? As yet there is no debate on the education system. The Minister of Education and Vocational Training is still acting in the framework of implementing the National Education and Training Programme. However, in his speech at the UN, the Haitian President said that education would be one of the government’s first priorities in the post-earthquake period. CNEH has mobilised its members and is ready to assist in this effort. What are the numbers of destroyed school buildings and of teachers and pupils without a school? Nationally, 70% of the school infrastructure was destroyed. 549 teachers and more than 1,300 students died in the Western Department, while 13 teachers and 20 students were killed in the South-Eastern Department, and four teachers died in Nippes Department. The headquarters of the Ministry for Education and Vocational Training also collapsed, killing 13 senior officials. In the public sector, only about 15% of the available hangars and tents can accommodate pupils. In the private sector, that proportion drops to 10%.

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 34, June 2010.