Despite many obstacles, Education International’s Haitian affiliates are jointly campaigning for quality public education and the establishment of a dialogue with the Minister of Education. They are also supporting a statute for teachers in the private sector.
In August 2018, the four member organisations of Education International (EI), the Fédération nationale des travailleurs en éducation et en culture (FENATEC), the Konfederasyon Nasyonal Anseyan Dayiti (CNEH), the Union nationale des normaliens d'Haïti (UNNOH) and the Union nationale des normalien·ne·s et éducateur·rice·s d’Haïti (UNNOEH), agreed to organise a campaign in the different regions of Haiti for quality public education, the establishment of a social dialogue with the Minister for Education, and union building and renewal.
This campaign, supported by EI, was implemented in September 2018 through general teachers’ meetings and a media communication plan. It confirmed high expectations among teachers who want to mobilise.
A list of demands submitted to the Minister
At the end of the tour, based on the requests gathered, the unions made a list of teachers’ demands. This list contained a number of issues such as cleaning up the school environment for public and private schools, the construction of laboratories and refectories in schools, and the creation of technical and vocational secondary schools in each of the country’s geographical departments.
In December 2018, this list was submitted to the Minister for Education, but has not yet received any response.
In January 2019, in response to a call by the Plateforme des Syndicats d’Enseignants Haïtiens (PSEH), to which the CNEH and UNNOEH belong, a two-day teachers’ strike took place nationwide on the 28th and 29th of the month to force the Minister to respond to the groups’ demands, revive efforts to obtain their salary arrears and salary adjustments and for the general improvement of working conditions in the educational sector.
The student associations and various other teachers’ groups such as the UNADEPH have expressed their support for this protest movement launched by the PSEH.
Another day of strikes was subsequently organised by the platform on 11 February.
A challenging national context
The unions are pursuing their efforts in a larger. complicated context. The affiliates are speaking out against corruption and financial scandals affecting the public authorities.
Moreover, the exchange rate against the dollar, which has never been so unfavourable, is creating tensions related to access to basic necessities. There have been disruptions in the supply of petrol and electricity, for example, which left the country paralysed for a number of days. These very challenging living conditions have given rise to mass demonstrations that have been taking place intermittently over the last few months.
As soon as the social situation allows it, EI will support other joint actions via the campaign for quality public education and a genuine dialogue with the public authorities.
A statute for teachers in the private sector
In 2015, a resolution for the introduction of a legal framework governing working conditions in the non-public education sector in Haiti and campaign for unionisation in this sector. was adopted at the EI World Congress in Ottawa, Canada.
The Haitian teaching unions are aiming to improve conditions for employees working in private schools, which account for around 80% of all pupils enrolled, and where the fight for the values underlying the public school system is difficult.
A research study commissioned by EI on the follow-up to the resolution was carried out in 2018 by Jean Gédéon. He visited several dozen private schools to get an idea of the situation of teachers in the private sector: teacher training, their qualifications, their salaries, their leave entitlement, the negotiation of employment contracts etc. The research study was carried out in several regions and types of private schools and covered both teachers and head teachers.
A second researcher, the legal expert Pierre Enocque François, was asked to draw up a proposal for a statute for teachers in the private sector, a text on which the four union members of EI have given their opinion. Once finalised, the bill will be submitted to the Education Commission of Haiti’s National Assembly, and the assembly will consequently be able to vote on the statute that should strengthen trade unions and improve conditions for teachers working in the private sector.
Once this statute has been adopted, there will still be a long way to go before the unions have achieved its implementation. They are highly critical of the fact that the already-adopted statute for teachers in the public sector is not being implemented by the competent national authorities.