Lack of access to education remains a key obstacle to social and economic development in Haiti. Surveys indicate that approximately 35 percent of Haitian youth are illiterate, and that the average Haitian child spends less than four years in school. An early grade reading assessment showed that 49 percent of Haitian children entering third grade are unable to read a single word. As indicated by these statistics, many Haitian children and youth are either illiterate or functionally illiterate, meaning a generation of Haitians does not possess the necessary knowledge and skills to enter the labor force. More than 90 percent of primary schools are privately managed by non-governmental organizations, churches, communities, and for-profit operators, with little to no government oversight. Approximately 75 percent of teachers lack adequate training. Annual school expenses account for about 40 percent of income for low-income families, serving as a financial burden for families with children in school. The January 2010 earthquake resulted in damage or destruction to 50 percent of primary and secondary schools, according to the Government of Haiti.
Haitian President Michel Martelly has made free and universal education as one of the key priorities of his administration. During the fall of 2011, the Government of Haiti’s Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training began the rollout of an operational plan to get 1.5 million students in school by 2016, improve curricula, train teachers, and set standards for licensing schools. The U.S. Government is committed to improving the quality of basic education in Haiti in support of these priorities.
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Government’s new education program, Tout Timoun Ap Li (ToTAL), focuses on improving reading skills for children in grades 1-3 in the Northern, St. Marc, and Port-au-Prince U.S. Government development corridors. Over the next two years, ToTAL will provide more than 28,000 children and 900 teachers in the three development corridors with innovative, evidenced-based reading curricula that meet international standards for best practice literacy instruction. ToTAL will also develop and implement innovative teacher training and community literacy activities. This initiative will eventually reach more than one million children nationwide as other partners extend the use of reading curricula and training methods beyond the development corridors. USAID will also provide targeted technical assistance to build the capacity of the Ministry of National Education to foster public/private partnerships and assist in the accreditation of schools.
The U.S. Government continues to work to improve the quality of and access to education for Haitians. Since the earthquake, we have: