More than 1,100 teachers lost their lives in the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti on 12 January, according to estimates by leaders of the Haitian teachers’ union. But Jean Lavaud and Rene Jolibois of the Confederation Nationale des Educateurs d'Haiti (CNEH) said they have been overwhelmed by the solidarity shown by member organizations of Education International around the world.
The Haitian teacher unionists received an emotional welcome at the EI North America/Caribbean conference held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 25 and 26 February.
The CNEH has started a financial assistance program which will help teachers and their families to recover from the disaster. With the help of EI, CNEH will also develop trauma counselling programmes.
The union is determined to play a central role in the reconstruction of Haiti's school system. The support committed by the international community should enable Haiti to develop a public school system that can provide quality public education for all of the country’s young people, Lavaud said.
In his keynote address, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen noted that the global economic crisis will have serious consequences for teaching and learning. Many governments in the region are, or will be, confronted with unprecedented budgetary constraints that may affect education spending. Van Leeuwen said he expects 2010-2012 to be hardship years for the public sector. He stressed that education is key to economic recovery and that in times of crisis public investments in the education sector should be increased, rather than cut back.
Leaders of the American and Canadian education unions discussed with their colleagues from the Caribbean islands a range of challenges, such as the development of partnerships with governments and strategies to promote safe learning environments. A discussion on standardized testing, which is being introduced in a growing number of countries, led to a recommendation by the conference that Education International undertake research into the spread of the phenomenon.
All of EI's member organizations in the region attended the conference, which was hosted by the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) and the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’Organization (TTUTA).
To read the full speech of Fred van Leuween, please click on the link below.