Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Macedonian call for help from the Youth of Haiti

Immediately below is the text of a petition from the Haitian Caricom Youth Ambassadors at a recent Caricom Heads of Government Special Summit on Youth, Paramaribo 2010. It is reproduced here by the permission of the Barbados Youth Development Council to circulate it. (HT: "David," Blog Owner Barbados Underground, Haiti reconstruction thread, February 4, 2010 at 5:48 PM.)







Good afternoon,

I wish to speak on the behalf of my brothers and sisters in Haiti who are desperate for almost 3 weeks. Those youths that woke up the morning of January 12 with a bunch of energy, vibes that were sharing with others, and had hopes that tomorrow will have been better! Those same youths, the one who survived obviously, were standing in the middle of a street at 5PM without any hope!

This is an appeal that the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors of Haiti; current and former are making on behalf of our peers.

Dear Heads

The January 12 earthquake left thousands of students without schools, universities, and teachers in Port-au-Prince and around Haiti. Current efforts are focusing on providing food, water, and shelter; but in the coming months and years, the most pressing issue will become the lack of qualified human resources to rebuild Haitian society, which will result from the generations of displaced students unable to access quality education during and following the crisis. The demand for quality education is, and will continue to be, very critical. In this time of crisis, HAITI needs the support of its partners, including members of the CARICOM community, to continue providing education to its current students to avoid creating a potentially detrimental gap in qualified human resources.

Haiti has little capacity and few facilities to offer tertiary education, and this disaster has further weakened the tertiary education system. The State University of Haiti has around 23,000 students; each year 18,000 youth seek attendance at an undergraduate school, but only 3000 are admitted. For example, the School for Nursing and the School of Human Sciences collapsed, and the other buildings are cracked. Most likely, the rescued students will lose the academic year, and the country will suffer from a lack of qualified personnel during the recovery and reconstruction periods following the immediate response.

As acting CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and with the support of the former ones, we appeal to the CARICOM Community to urge the Heads of Government to offer education support to Haiti in this humanitarian crisis.

First, we request that CARICOM dedicate money for 20 scholarships per year for the next five years (starting in Fall 2010) for Haitian students to attend the University of West Indies (UWI). In addition, we hope that UWI will be more flexible in enrolling Haitian students during this special disaster relief effort.

Second, we urge CARICOM to develop a mechanism that will help youth in Haiti access funding to develop businesses, for instance, through the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), while receiving support and mentoring from the State University of Haiti and the private sector.

Thank you for your attention.



1. Isnel PIERREVAL / former CYA for HAITI /

2. Frantz SEIDE / former CYA for HAITI/

3. Gyliane Anne-Leticia CADET/ CYA for HAITI/


This petition rightly first and foremost underscores the central importance of education to rebuilding Haiti, and also calls for assistance with business formation and development. And while twenty scholarships per year to the UWI -- and a similar number to the other national, church based and independent universities, institutes, seminaries and colleges -- would be helpful, the scope of the need and want of functional campus facilities points strongly to the need for a regional open university campus movement.

Similarly, supportive efforts will be needed at secondary and primary levels.

This leads back to the earlier suggestions on education initiatives made on January 12, in response to the crisis, from point 25:

25 --> . . . the issue in hand is not merely one of grants and technical assistance towards capacity-building, important as these are.

26 --> Gospel-based liberation and transformation through discipleship and renewal of hearts, minds, lives and institutions are also necessary if Haiti is to find a truly sustainable breakthrough. (Just as is true for the rest of the world.)

27 --> I also believe that the harnessing of modern information and communication technologies is also a key component of such a transformation, as the bridging of the digital divide powerfully enables all of the above.

28 --> For this, I am especially impressed by the significance of the One Laptop Per Child pioneered by Nicholas Negroponte and others, and the now spun-off Sugar User Interface system. (As well, the Tutorius interactive tutoring system based on Sugar is worth monitoring.) [OLPC] initiative.

29 --> For, this system creates an educational learning system based on a rugged, low cost, low power consumption, low ecological footprint computer using an open source interface built on Red Hat's Fedora Linux, and is a system that is completely open source on both hardware and software, demonstrated here:

(Think, instead of a cut-down PC, of a rugged modification to the Blackberry or iPhone; but set up as a child's "instant-on" educational computer based on completely open source software, and with built in networking capability so that it can interact with the Internet and a neighbourhood of other users across the world. A world in which already over 1.6 million e-books books that will work with the XO series of computers are available online. The underlying hardware uses an extended X86 instruction set as well, so it is capable of working with Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, and with a suitably adapted Windows. [Indeed, through an arrangement with Microsoft, for a small additional fee [it seems ~US$3/unit] countries ordering large numbers of XO's may have XP installed.])

30 --> As just one illustration of potential beyond just education, one of the most distressing experiences of Haitians abroad has been inability to communicate with their loved ones back home, in the midst of the horrendous news reports. But, if OLPC XO-1's were on the ground, so soon as a wireless network could have been set up, families would have been able to be in instant contact through text, and if there were enough bandwidth, speech and video.

31 --> Since the OLPC Foundation is relatively small, as well, and is strongly technologically innovative, the extension of the concept from primary age children to a generally available educational device that not only is set up for primary education and as an eBook reader, but is capable of supporting education through secondary and tertiary levels. [Cf. concepts for the XO-3 "card computer" here, which the foundation is targetting for US$ 75/unit, though of course they have as yet been unable to bring the original XO below US$100/unit on truly large scale production.]

32 --> For instance, a classroom with a U-shaped set of Workstation plug-in points, and a central modular table system can fit into a 15' x 30 ' room. Put in some broadband access, multimedia, and wireless keyboard tech, mix in mentoring people as facilitators, and you have a viable micro-campus centre that could for instance be based in a church or a community centre etc.

33 --> The Moodle open source education content management software system, Wiki technologies (similar to the Wikipedia encyclopedia), blog technologies, video conferencing and other open source digital techniques can then facilitate hosting a rich educational resource that can be partly localised to on-site servers, partly accessible through the web.

34 --> A network of such microcampuses can tackle the keystone bridging Secondary-to-post secondary and Associate to first degree levels, with key short courses and targetted strategic technical areas. This would serve as he backbone to support the transformation of primary and secondary education, and would provide a steady stream of people with required capacity for the redevelopment effort.

35 --> At more advanced levels, a cluster of targetted MBAs, MPAs [Masters in Public Admin], M.Eds and the like would help greatly on building strategic level governance and managerial capacity side.

36 --> A good Associate Degree level Theology, Bible, Discipleship and technical empowerment programme designed to work with the general education system could be taken up by CETA or other groups. This last would help energise the spiritual reformation and renewal side.

37 --> Similarly, porting one or more of the open source Bible software initiatives -- Xiphos is already a Linux based system that has been ported to other environments, but eSWORD has now gone generic with version 9 [as with office version 2007 the original Access database format has been abandoned by Microsoft] -- to the platform would create a widely accessible Bible resource that could be used for supporting the work of the church and general "equipping of God's people for works of service." [This would help foster godly reformation.]

On the just as vital business (and agriculture) development side, an update to the same post, of January 24th, suggested:

1 –> One of the key blights of Haiti (and Kingston, Ja etc) is the problem of urban migration of rural people, as the countryside has been long starved of opportunity and attractions.

2 –> This, due to the problem of subsidising the town at the expense of the country that Adam Smith long ago analysed. For, urban concentrations draw the eye and the effort, while rural people, being dispersed, are easily overlooked; to the predictable detriment of both -- rural stagnation, loss of ability of a nation to feed itself from its own resources, and urban blight with high unemployment, poverty and crime.

3 –> But in our time of networked multimedia communications, there is no good reason why villages should not grow into small townships with quite good enough facilities and resources; creating a nation-wide network of distributed centres that avert the denudation, idling and depopulation of the countryside and the creation of overpopulated, overstressed, explosive and unsustainable urban concentrations. (I think here of SE St Elizabeth, Ja, and the astonishing development of the township of Junction as an informal model to study and learn from.)

4 –> A key step is the de-bureaucratisation of business formation and taxing systems. For, as De Soto showed convincingly for Peru [cf Institute for Liberty and Democracy here], a lingering mercantilist pattern of regulation, monopoly and cartel easily emerges that locks out the innovative small or micro entrepreneur through creating a bureaucratic maze backed up by blocking access to capital save by the already established.

5 –> The rise of capital starved informal micro enterprises, squatting on/"capture" of lands, inability to acquire lands, etc etc are all characteristic features of such, and are already depressingly familiar from a simple glance at Haiti (and of course Jamaica etc).

6 –> Instead, regulatory and taxing systems need to be greatly simplified, more comprehensible to the uninitiated, helping-oriented and less punitive. On this De Soto’s comparison that similar businesses took an afternoon to set up in Miami [no bribes] and a year or so in Peru [with bribes], is telling.

7 –> Similarly, his contrast of two neighbouring communites in Peru, one ghetto-like, the other showing obvious pride of ownership, is telling. When people can own their own land and homes, they have ownership and access to a capital base that can give collateral for prudent business investments [and if designed right, can often house the relevant cottage industry -- think of the old fashioned tailor shop fronting the house, or shop below, residence above etc].

8 –> Multiply by strategic cash crops [including the ever-growing list of nutraceuticals, especially superfruit tree crops -- reforestation!], agricultural co-ops and competent marketing systems that turn small plots into mini cash cows.

9 –> Blend in well managed credit unions and development banking. (And, CDB is a world class effort along these lines. The Basic Needs Trust Fund should get injections from all sorts of people, as a way to energise a known centre of excellence.)

10 –> 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.

11 –> Add to these the proved power of the business incubator.

12 –> Back all up by a long term programme of capacity development and transformation through education and renewal . . .

Thus, there is a good match between these earlier proposals and what the youth of Haiti are asking for.

The challenge -- including the implicit spiritual dimension -- is therefore now in our hands, even as once before at the hinge of our Civilisation's history, we may read:

Acts 16:9 A vision appeared to Paul during the night: A Macedonian man was standing there urging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 16:10 After Paul saw the vision, we attempted immediately to go over to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

So, again, let us ask: why not now, why not here, why not us? END

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