Posted by Karl Johnson on Apr 14, 2010
Related program: Haiti Rebuilding Center
As per the government mandate, Haiti schools officially reopened April 6, but the capacity in which students are now attending class varies dramatically. In most cases the original school building has not yet been assessed by engineers or has already been deemed unfit for occupancy.
Temporary shelters can be found assembled on the old school grounds–wood frames nailed together and a tarpaulin thrown overtop. However similar school shelters prove stifling in the displacement camps. On one camp visit, our program manager couldn't help but notice how the children–while given a place to learn–were far from comfortable there:
"The tents are pitched so closely together that it becomes impossible to get a sense of where you are; it's like being in a maze–the tents are tall enough to block out external reference points.... The kids in the 'schools' were seated on benches. No plywood flooring or mats - just all set on the ground. Small portable blackboards are sometimes provided. They have few notebooks and pencils, that I could see. Classes are held in the morning and are over by lunchtime. The heat under the school tents was stifling; it had to be several degrees above the external temperature. These blue tarps, seen everywhere, just hold the heat."
Additionally, Haitian officials look on the temporary camp schools with concern, not wanting to encourage a feeling of settlement in the strictly-transitory tent cities. As for the school buildings that survived the quake–by now many have become refuges for the homeless. The Ministry of Education has been receiving petitions for their removal from upset parents.