Barriers to Education for Girls in Haiti
Despite significant progress made in achieving the second Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary education, an estimated 63 million adolescents remain out of school. Barriers to education disproportionately affect girls and include poverty, gender-based violence, child marriage, and pregnancy. WomenOne and the Global Campaign for Education-US (GCE-US) are dedicated to ensuring the provision of quality education to all children. Recently, WomenOne focused our efforts on improving quality of education for a small community in rural Haiti.
Haiti has a rich history, but decades of political instability coupled with ineffective development practices have left the majority of Haitians without vital services or opportunities for economic growth. Access to education remains particularly problematic. More than 80 percent of primary schools are managed by private organizations - almost all charge tuition. According to estimates from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Haitians aged 25 years and older have received an average of only 4.9 years of school, and only 29 percent have attended secondary school.
Haiti is still recovering from the effects of the catastrophic earthquake that struck in 2010. Save The Children estimates that over 5,000 schools were damaged or destroyed, crippling Haiti’s already weak education system. Schools that have remained open struggle to equip their classrooms with the necessary materials due to a lack of infrastructure. Unfortunately, Haiti has little to show for the $13 billion allocated for disaster relief over the past 5 years.
Haitian girls and women were already at a disadvantage in accessing education prior to the 2010 earthquake. As many as 70 percent of Haitian women have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lives. Save The Children estimates that the average girl in Haiti only attends school until the age of 7 years. Girls are often pulled out of school to assist with household chores or when families are faced with steep tuition fees.
WomenOne recently partnered with fellow GCE-US coalition member, BuildOn, to construct a primary school in the village of Berard in Southern Haiti. During a week-long trek, we broke ground on a new primary school and were hosted by local families. Conversations with our hosts highlighted the need for more economic and educational opportunities in Berard. In the absence of a physical school structure, most children aged 5-12 attend classes in a one-room local church while others walk nearly an hour to attend school in the neighboring village. Families often struggle to pay tuition and uniform costs and teachers must manage a daunting workload while making a small salary. Despite these challenges, citizens of Berard remain optimistic that education will lead to improved conditions for Haiti. When asked what inspires him professionally, the headmaster said, “I help children so they can become helpful citizens in Haiti.” Many members of the community - ranging from children to grandparents - were present at the school build.
Haitian girls who do not have access to education are more likely to be poor, affected by violence, and have more children. The effect is intergenerational, as a woman’s children are twice as likely to attend primary school if she did. However, women in Haiti serve as community leaders, caregivers, professionals, and heads of households. As Haiti continues to rebuild, it will be critical to provide educational opportunities for the current generation of girls to ensure sustainable development efforts are successful.
“I want to be a teacher to teach others how to study” - Stella
WomenOne is a non-profit organization that focuses on creating positive change in the lives of women and girls globally through access to quality education. We work with institutions and partner organizations towards our mission to provide women and girls globally faced with extreme poverty, cultural barriers and humanitarian emergencies access to quality education. We do this through research, advocacy and innovative programming.