Agency, Empowerment and A Revolutionary: A New Vision for Haitian Education Defined by and Made for Haiti

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As Haiti begins the 2015-2016 school year, recently appointed Minister of Education, Namsey Manigat, is resolved to make this year a defining year of change. He has declared, “The time has come…for us to create a new dynamic.” and he means business.

At first consideration it is easy to dismiss Manigat’s vision as political rhetoric, especially considering the dismal state of the Haitian education system. According to comment made to the US based The Maimi Harold, Haitian student performance data is disheartening. As of 2014 when he took office, only 25% of high school students passed the national math exam and 97 out of every 100 students who reach the 13th grade had either dropped out or repeated a grade. Additionally, school inefficiency is perpetuated by the frequent closures caused by prolonged mass teacher/student led protest advocating improvements in resources and salary. How ironic? Not to mention, the stereotypical misappropriation of aid funds by corrupt businessmen and government officials.

With traditionally low student performance and historically unstable political atmosphere as serious matters of contention, how can Manigat’s capacity to implement reform not be questioned? Right???

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In a letter written to parents in late January 2015, published by Port Au Prince based newspaper Le Nouvelliste, Manigat took a definitive stance against the establishment, publicly criticizing private education and the current trajectory of public schools. He exposed the results of a secret government led investigation proving that the government knowingly allocated PSUGO subsidies to private schools that inflated student enrollment data.

Manigat strategically framed shameful national performance data to demonstrate the crippling social and economic consequences of a failed educational system. He proposed a strategy focused on 12 key areas asserting investment in education as a means of national development. The address concluded with guarantees of Ministry led initiatives countering the effects of socioeconomic disparities, improving teacher training and support, modernizing textbooks and promoting Haitian nationality and global citizenship in national curriculum; to be implemented as early as the fall.

Amidst pushback from the majority of the education community and tensions between teachers and the ministry, Manigat has made good on his guarantees. In the time following his January letter until the start of school year Manigat was able to negotiate a deal with the teachers union, implement a nationwide uniform policy and reallocated budget funds so families can purchase discounted uniforms. With long-term projects in the pipeline, including the development of new culturally applicable national standardized test made in Haiti, I’d say Manigat is making a strides towards change.

In spite of considerable progress, tangible benefits of Manigat’s work have yet to materialize; however, acknowledgment of intangibles is warranted. Manigat is a politician from humble Haitian origins unabashedly challenging a colonialist situated institution that perpetually disadvantages its people 200 years post independence; the contextual significance is noteworthy. He has challenged a nation to assume agency in the economic and cultural development of itself by urging resistance through education.

Channeling the audacity of Napoleon Bonaparte and the foresight of Jean-Jacques Duclos, Manigat is a man on a mission.

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Sources:

Benoit, T. (2015, July 6). Haiti – Justice : Vast operation of embezzlement of PSUGO funds. Retrieved October 5, 2015.

CHARLES, J. (2015, September 4). From uniforms to apps, transforming Haiti education, one reform at a time. Retrieved October 5, 2015, from 

Charles, J. (2014, September 25). Caribbean News Now! Retrieved October 5, 2015,

Viard, R. (2015, February 6). Minister Nesmy Manigat wants to save the school year  Retrieved October 5, 2015,

Alternative Source Background Information:

Le Nouvelliste: http://lenouvelliste.com/lenouvelliste/apropos

HaitiLibre: http://www.haitilibre.com/en/why-HaitiLibre.php

Caribbean News Now: http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/about.php

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