Haitian affiliates have received support from Education International’s COVID-19 Solidarity Fund to set up training courses for teachers to learn about distance teaching.
The Konfederasyon Nasyonal Anseyan Dayiti (CNEH), the Union Nationale des Normaliens d'Haïti (UNNOH) and the Union Nationale des Normaliens/Normaliennes et Éducateurs/Éducatrices d’Haïti (UNNOEH) were able to organise, with the financial support of Education International and the Centrale des syndicats du Québec/Canada, a training course on how to use tools for managing distance teaching.
This activity, was carried out in several stages in Port-au-Prince:
- Firstly, the development of the training modules from 26 July to 5 August. It enabled the trade union leaders to validate the training document based on the expectations expressed by the project.
- Secondly, the training course took place from 13 to 15 August with the participation of 60 teachers, including 20 from each trade union.
- Finally, the creation of the website targeted at the Education International affiliated trade unions in Haiti. This took place at the same time as the development of the training modules.
Very positive results following the training course
As planned, this training activity put a team of trainers from the unions in a position to train teachers who are members of the three unions involved in this project on how to use the technological tools, with a view to piloting a distance learning system.
Beyond this objective, the results recorded at the end of this training course have greatly contributed to the strengthening of the trade unions. This training course should enable them to considerably improve their communication systems by making better use of digital resources and social networks for communication and mobilisation purposes. For instance, the UNNOH website is currently being created. Digital literacy has also helped to ensure a wider audience for trade union activities, notably during the celebration of World Teachers’ Day on 5 October on the Facebook page of the UNNOEH.
An urgent need to make use of information and communication technologies in education
The training document (in French) recalls that the appearance of the first case of COVID-19 led the Haitian government to declare a state of health emergency throughout the country and, at the same time, to close all schools, professional establishments and universities on 19 March: “Thus, 60% of schools and training centres are closed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and millions of pupils and students are affected, according to UNESCO. The world is going to switch to virtual mode. Schools will not be an exception to the rule. Distance learning has become the alternative solution to ensure the continuity of school activities in almost all countries. As a result, some of our schools and universities, as best they can, have decided to take this path with all the shortcomings and complexities dictated by the Haitian context. With this in mind, trade union organisations working in the education sector have taken the initiative to provide teacher-members with pedagogical digital tools and resources to meet these new challenges facing the education system.”
Four million students and over 150,000 teachers must adapt to distance teaching
The document further explains that “in this difficult and adverse context, around four million students and more than 150,000 teachers will follow in the footsteps of the new reality of Haitian schools marked by recurring episodes of ‘country lock’ and COVID-19. Schools must adapt. Better still, teachers must adapt.”
It also lists the following challenges with regard to distance learning in Haiti:
- Non-existent technological infrastructures.
- Low bandwidth (Internet connection) and exorbitant prices.
- Lack of access to electricity.
- Lack of a policy for the integration of information and communication technologies in schools.
- Lack of proficiency in computer tools or lack of training in the use of information and communication technologies for teaching.
UNNOH: participants in the training course were very interested in discovering distance teaching tools
During the training workshops, the participants were very interested in discovering online teaching tools, such as Meet, Zoom and Google Classroom, according to Mona Bernadel, Legal Affairs Secretary for the UNNOH.
Nevertheless, she identified access to materials, electricity and high-speed Internet as the main obstacles to the successful implementation of a distance learning system.
In addition, she warned that student dropout, discouragement, lack of motivation and early school leavers can be exacerbated in a distance learning system.
According to Bernadel, the next steps needed are: equipping teachers with suitable materials, continuing the training course to reach more teachers and giving them better access to the training modules.
UNNOEH: Replicating the training for grassroots committees in the different regions of the country
Georges Wilbert Franck, Coordinator of the UNNOEH, welcomed the fact that several of the participants are in the process of implementing the training outcomes. They are beginning to put their skills at the service of certain school management boards by supporting them in the implementation of a system enabling the use of online teaching platforms. In Gonaïves in particular, a training course has already been organised by teachers who took part training.
As part of the follow-up to this project, those who took part in the training are in the process of replicating it for the grassroots committees in the different regions.
At the technical level, he added that the teachers are overcoming a lack of computer equipment by using their mobile phones.