Haitian President Martelly visits The UWI, outlines sweeping educational reforms
“Education is a public right and our Governments have the obligation to increase their quality for the well-being of our people.” These were the words of His Excellency, Michel Joseph Martelly, President of the Republic of Haiti recently at The University of the West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine Campus. In a small gathering at the Main Salon of the Campus Principal’s Office, Martelly outlined an ambitious education reform policy designed to contribute to the rebuilding of the earthquake damaged island republic.
“The educational policy which I have launched meets the pressing need to endow all of Haiti’s children with the capital required for their growth and their full social and cultural integration. They will become full-fledged citizens and will be easily capable of taking their responsibilities as citizens,” Mr. Martelly told a gathering that included Campus Deputy Principal, Professor Rhoda Reddock; Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner to Jamaica and Ambassador to the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Professor Iva Gloudon; and other senior campus personnel.
Visiting Trinidad and Tobago to attend the VIII Americas Competitiveness Forum, President Martelly stopped in at The UWI to discuss what he called the most comprehensive education reform in Haiti in more than half a century. The reforms, he said, were being implemented to bolster his Government’s major educational policies.
“Our educational system has not been the subject of such major legislative reform for the past 54 years and my wish was to implement this reform for the sustainability of the public policies that I have undertaken for the sector,” he said.
President Martelly explained that his government has “resolutely launched” free and compulsory universal schooling. In addition, he said that a National Education Fund had been established to support the universal schooling system and “repair wrongs and promote social justice.”
With a literacy rate well below that of the region and massive destabilisation of the school system due to the earthquake in 2010, rebuilding of the education system is seen by many as vital to the well-being of the Haitian Republic.
“Given that 5% of the country’s GDP is devoted to education on a yearly basis, Haiti’s wish is to catch up with the region’s countries, in view of the delays it has accumulated on the issue of education,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of The UWI, Professor Reddock voiced support for the rebuilding of the Haitian educational system: “As a regional university, The UWI is dedicated to supporting and creating partnerships with governments and other universities within the region, including Haiti. After the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti which wiped out 90% of the university infrastructure and resulted in the deaths of faculty, staff and students, The UWI knew that it had to support, even if only in a small way, the re-establishment of the Haitian tertiary education sector.”
The UWI’s efforts, she said, included the creation of the UWI-Haiti Assistance Fund and the hosting of Haitian students at the various campuses so that they could complete their degree programmes after the earthquake’s effects on the State University of Haiti. At present, two Haitian students are attending The UWI at the St. Augustine Campus through the Caribbean-Pacific Island Mobility Scheme (CARPIMS) scholarship programme. They were given the opportunity to meet President Martelly after his talk.
In his speech, President Martelly outlined a legislative package of six draft laws for the modernisation and governance of education which had been adopted at a meeting of the Haitian Cabinet. These include a draft law detailing the National Fund for Education, laws dealing with the education professions, higher education reform laws and a draft law dealing with compulsory social service for students who have benefitted from public financial support.