Haitian education system worries officials
Laura Redpath, Senior Gleaner Writer
Max J.C. Alce of the Haitian Embassy leaned into the table and expressed his worry about Haiti's tertiary-education system, which took a hard hit from the January 12 earthquake, to ambassadors and University of the West Indies (UWI) representatives.
Alce, chargé d'affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Haiti, said he is concerned about how long term the Haiti relief commitment towards rebuilding educational institutions is.
"One year from now, would UWI and UNICA continue to give Haiti the help that it needs?" he asked of everyone at the table, his forehead glistening and his eyes focused.
"This is not something we can do in three months."
The Association of Universities and Research Institutions of the Caribbean (UNICA), held a meeting on Wednesday, with representatives from the embassies of Dominica Republic, Venezuela, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia and Mexico, as well as United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
According to Alce, 40 university professors died, along with 13,000 teachers and 4,000 students. He also said that 2,394 schools were destroyed.
"This is the real elite of the people we have lost."
March 15 marks the day when the annual UNICA meeting will be held in Trinidad. UNICA is working towards rallying forces from the Caribbean region to help rebuild Haiti's tertiary education system. Presidents of Haitian universities are invited to the annual meeting in order to facilitate this.
Programme specialist, Cesar Toro of UNESCO, said efforts need to be carefully co-ordinated.
"What we need here is action. One of the risks of this intervention is the brain drain."
The UWI, Mona campus, is launching an effort along with UWI's other campuses to offer scholarships to over 100 Haitian students. It is also working closely with the State University of Haiti.
Some of the issues discussed were the language barrier, immigration and health issues, as well as raising public awareness of Haiti's needs.
Ambassador Ventura Emilio Diaz-Mejia of the Embassy of Colombia raised the point that amputees will also need to be reincorporated into the workforce with training.
"We need to build a new Haiti," he said. "If only we had the money."
Dr Matthew Smith of the Department of History and director of the UWI-Mona Haiti initiative said it is urgent that UWI can match Haiti's needs.
"The devastation is quite extreme," he said.