Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash
Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

Haiti: Generalised violence throws education system into chaos

published 20 February 2020 updated 24 February 2020

As Haiti grapples with lawlessness and widespread violence, education unions warn of the terrible impact of the crisis on the country’s education system, with students, teachers and education workers in fear for their lives and schools closing down.

After years marked by natural disasters, a cholera epidemic and corruption scandals, the situation in Haiti continues to deteriorate. The country is now facing a surge in violence, with gangs terrorising the population. Unions affiliated to Education International in Haiti (Fédération Nationale des Travailleurs en Education et en Culture – FENATEC; Konfederasyon Nasyonal Anseyan Dayiti – CNEH; Union Nationale des Normaliens d'Haïti – UNNOH; Union Nationale des Normaliens/Normaliennes et Educateurs/Educatrices d’Haïti - UNNOEH) have raised the alarm about the unravelling situation in the country and the terrible consequences for Haitian students and educators.

Education unions report that since the beginning of the year, two students aged 5 and 13 were killed in separate incidents, two students were victims of a kidnap attempt, and several parents were abducted, all in the vicinity of schools. For security reasons, schools have closed down in areas severely affected by the violence. Thousands of students, educators and parents across the country are afraid to leave their homes.

The violence deals a great blow to an already failing education system plagued by corruption and privatisation. Over 90% of schools in Haiti are private and function with little government regulation or oversight. Salary payments to teachers and education workers are delayed for months at a time, while education budgets are pillaged by corrupt officials.

After staging and taking part in massive protests in 2019, education unions are now paralysed by the widespread violence. Collective action and social dialogue are currently impossible.

Reacting to the news, David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, stated: “We are appalled by the situation and stand in full solidarity with our colleagues, their students and the people of Haiti. Children’s right to education and our colleagues’ right to a safe working environment are being trampled while an indifferent or complicit government does nothing. We will not stand by and allow this to continue. Education unions from across the world are mobilising to ensure that the international community acts decisively and puts an end to the chaos and violence.”