Schools of Hope, Haiti
TKI Feb 2010
SYNOPSIS: A proposal for creating a network of 25 digitally integrated community-transforming Schools of Hope in Haiti. These schools, from primary to Associate Degree level Community Colleges, would help create a digital age education system connected to business incubation, agriculture development, balanced rural-urban development, and sustainability initiatives, starting with demonstration of low-cost sustainable construction technologies.
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INTRODUCTION: After a devastating earthquake that shattered Port- au- Prince and surrounding areas, Haiti lost 230,000+ people and a large slice of its national infrastructure. As sister Caribbean nations, as people descended from slaves whose liberation was hastened by the sacrifices of the Haitian nation from 1791 on, and in response to the recent petition of request for assistance with education and business development placed before Caricom by the leaders of Haiti’s youth, we now propose a Schools of Hope Initiative for the capital city [5 schools] and for the towns and villages of Haiti [20 schools], as a long-term commitment to help in the reconstruction and transformation of Haiti; understood as a regional and global moral imperative and a down-payment on our debt of honour.
It is intended that the schools — at primary and secondary level as appropriate — should target the urban and rural poor, and that they should serve as centres of community upliftment and transformation, through partnering with or incorporating affiliated initiatives and components such as:
- attached agriculture extension/ urban allotment gardening projects,
- micro- financing and micro- business incubation projects,
- a programme for provision of annual scholarships to regional colleges and universities
- health clinics,
- trade evening schools,
- demonstration of key renewable energy technologies,
- demonstration of sustainable construction technologies,
- participation as pilots for the global One Laptop Per Child initiative,
- community upliftment micro-power radio,
- networking as an access points for secondary and tertiary level any distance education,
- etc. as further needs, challenges and opportunities are identified by our Haitian partners, and/or by other partners from across the world
We also invite participation of partners from across the world in this initiative.
1. Background and Rationale:
From even before 1791, our Caricom sister-state Haiti has had a turbulent, unstable and painful, complex history; with much blame that could be allocated to both external and internal actors. However, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake – one that may have cost three hundred thousands their lives, and devastated perhaps half the buildings in Port au Prince; including an estimated up to seventy five percent of school buildings -- this is not the time for finger-pointing, but for rebuilding.
We the peoples of the Caribbean also have a historic debt of honour to the nation whose courageous uprising from 1791 helped to accelerate the abolition of slavery in our region by perhaps a generation. We are also ideally positioned to be bridging partners with our sister Caricom country as it sets about a rebuilding and redevelopment process; one where it will have to find a way to work with Great Powers that have historically exploited and abused the people of Haiti.
Moreover, as Haiti’s youth ambassadors made plain in a petition to the February Caricom heads of government meeting, Haiti is requesting our assistance with education and with support for economic empowerment through business formation. Thus, a Schools of Hope initiative – designed to provide education services and support for successful business formation, for a transition to sustainable construction, for sustainable agriculture, and for reforestation -- are key areas in which we can make a valuable contribution, and would be an appropriate down- payment on our debt of honour to Haiti.
The key to the proposed strategy would be to establish clustered schools in which a Community College core unit has associated High School(s) and primary school(s), with the teachers being the key links in the network. So, the Community College helps build education and technical capacity, supporting and researching on the work in the affiliated schools. All, backed up by an internet technology based network using key technologies such as Moodle educational content management system, wikis [good for writing learning resources], and blogs. EPUB format e-books and the like would provide online references constituting a reference library. OLPC family XO-1 PC’s — open hardware, open software, ruggedised, low power — would then serve as a common low cost adequate bang for the buck computing platform. (NB: Opening up hard and software is perfect for building technical skills for the C21 digital age. It is also suggested that we should approach OLPC to create a student/teacher version of the XO-1 and derivatives; for use in higher levels of education. Similarly, a Single Board Computer version set up for the CAN bus would be helpful for developing industrial and agricultural controllers.)
Networked, community based education and associated upliftment and agricultural and business formation would help to reverse urban drift, and create balanced urban and rural development In particular, given the growing digital age, there are many possibilities for using networked Internet and computer based digital resources and existing or restored or new physical infrastructure to help transform Haiti’s educational system and integrate it into widely distributed community upliftment and business and agricultural development.
Modular, rapid build low cost, sustainability oriented construction technologies also offer a capacity to put in required community based infrastructure at affordable rates. in addition, use of modular, rapid-build sustainable, quake and hurricane resistant construction technologies would demonstrate and build capacity for the urgently needed post-quake rebuilding.
Multiply such prospects by strategic cash crops, agricultural co-ops and competent marketing systems that turn small plots into mini cash cows. For, with “ethical” organic crops such as coffee, in an Internet age a farming coop can market straight to global ethical, fair trade and organic markets. (So, we ask: what if such a co-op hosts a node in a regional Internet marketing system for artistic handicrafts and for strategic cash crops?)
Blend in well managed credit unions and development banking. Take village churches, schools and community centres, and augment them to include micro-campus centres, supports for business formation and development, clinics and community micro-power radio. Add to these the proved power of the business incubator. Back all of this up by a long term, university research based programme of capacity development and transformation through education and renewal .
Nothing is going to be perfect, and nobody or nothing will have no detractors and critics, but we need to ask: what works? how can we build on strengths, address challenges and compensate for weaknesses or defects?
2. Goals and Objectives:
GOAL: Through a Caricom partnership with the Government and people of Haiti, to initially implement and support a network of community-transforming Schools of Hope in Haiti.
This may be achieved across a sixty-month period through:
a] Agreement across Caricom to initiate such an effort [D + 3 mos]
b] Agreement with Gov Haiti — a Caricom member — and selected target communities across Haiti [D + 6 months]
c] Contacts with partner development agencies and supportive governments [D + 6 months]
d] Contacts with OLPC and Sugar, etc towards production and distribution of XO-1’s for schools [D + 6 months]
e] Contact & agreement with OLPC etc on creation of a student and educator version of the OLPC XO-1 etc [D + 12 months]
f] Design, construction of pilot wave of schools at 10 – 20% of selected sites [including at least one primary, one secondary, one community college/ Associate degree level], using innovative sustainable, rapid build, relatively low cost construction technologies (e.g. Moladi would be a candidate for technology) [D + 18 months]
g] Implementation of integrated, associated community uplifting efforts in collaboration with communities and partners. [D + 30 months]
h] Initial evaluations [D + 9 - D + 33 months]
i] Wave 2: next 20 – 40 % [D + 36 months]
j] Wave 3: up to 90 % [D + 48 months]
k] Wave 4: final set of schools [D + 54 months]
l] Evaluation, scaling up and dissemination in concert with partners [D + 60 months on]
3. Proposed Implementation:
The key stakeholders and partners would be Caricom, UWI (and other regional universities . . . perhaps the ACTI group), the Government of Haiti, Haitian community leaders and members, and international partners that have already been involved in education transformation in Haiti.
An awareness and activation forum can be used to mobilise a provisional executive team and partnership based board of governors, with attached experts and partners forming a matrix type project team structure. This working group should report to Caricom, and the council of PMs, as a major regional project, indeed a Nehemiah project. In addition, the forum should meet regularly to discuss progress, and to communicate with the Haitan, regional and international publics.
The project will also require agreement with the Haitian Government on innovations in education at all three levels: primary, secondary, community college.
This initiative should be viewed as a launch project, with an onward sustained commitment from Caricom and other partners to keep the network of schools going and growing as a viable -- and in the end essentially Haitian -- concern.
4. Milestones and Deliverables:
The timelined objectives above indicate the envisioned milestones and deliverables in sufficient detail for a discussion draft concept note.
The key decision-maker, technical and financial inputs are implied in the above. Drawing them out slightly, a top level working group of educators, development specialists and other key technical people will need to put in a considerable effort to get the programme going, starting from an activation conference. This group should work in partnership with key stakeholders and especially the Haitian Government and Caricom, which should help resolve permit and regulatory obstacles.
The proposed OLPC and shift to sustainable construction technologies will require appropriate technical inputs.
Beyond that, on the initial crude budget estimate below, the envisioned launch phase project would reasonably require a financial and in-kind commitment of some US$ 4/ Caricom national across five years, other than those from disaster-struck Haiti.
The project is therefore feasible per required input resources, and onward sustained efforts should also be feasible on Caricom’s general resource base.
6. Estimated Budget
For a discussion draft like this, we will make a very simple estimate: on an average of US$ 1 mn/school to build and equip it, with primary schools expected to cost on the low side, and starter Community College mini campuses on the high side:
US$ 1 mn/school x 25 US$ 25 mn
For central and network expenses US$ 5 mn
TOTAL US$ 30 mn
Some can be in kind, but US$ 30 mn / 7.5 mn non-Haitian Caricomers is ~ US$ 4/ person, across five years.
7. Key Assumptions:
The project depends on political will and public support to make a major long term Caricom commitment to Haiti, and to its redevelopment and transformation. This will probably only be viable if the Haitian programme is a pilot for a regional transformation through education initiative. (Which is not a bad thing at all!)
Failing such a regional government level commitment, since the project is inherently modular and scalable, in a context where there is a long term commitment from churches, charitable organisations etc, a scaled down form would be viable through such agencies.
Thus, though regional political will is plainly a risky premise, the project concept is sufficiently viable that it will probably be adopted in some form by a cluster of partners.
8. Outcomes, Benefits and Impacts:
As the schools get in on the ground the direct beneficiaries would be students, families and communities, with long term beneficial outcomes for Haiti and the wider region. The associated agriculture, construction, business incubation and community health and radio outreaches would multiply community-level benefits. Modularity, the emergence of a growing network of centres of renewal and transformation, and associated digitalisation would enhance prospects for expansion that builds on success.
Beyond such direct benefits, the rise of an educated digitally productive generation in Haiti would have long term transformative effects on the Haitian economy and society. The participative partnership based approach will also help create a sounder governance culture for Haiti, fostering stability and sustainability. Also, as Haiti provides a demonstration and testbed, Caricom as a whole (and wider regions beyond) would also begin to benefit).
At secondary levels, a shift to sustainable construction would tend to reduce adverse environmental impacts of development, and the associated reforestation and sustainable farming initiatives would move us to an improved bio-physical environment in Haiti.
Finally, the stream of obvious benefits will begin rapidly, from the construction phase on. So, quick wins are built in, which will help silence critics and will build up support.
SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS: A Schools of Hope initiative is both credibly feasible and potentially decisively beneficial for Haiti and Caricom, a credible big win all around. Such an initiative is therefore highly desirable and urgently needed. As such, the participation of Caricom, individual Governments across the region, other key Caribbean organisations, charitable groups and institutions, as well as friendly external Governments and institutions, is respectfully invited.
And so, we are at an Esther 4:12, Mordecai moment:
If not now, then when?So, again: why not now, why not here, why not us? END
If not Haiti, then where?
If not us, then who?