PORT-AU-PRINCE – The Inter-American Development Bank and Colombian singer Shakira’s Barefoot Foundation today announced they will support the Haitian government’s efforts to rebuild a historical public school in the capital’s downtown area.
The Elie Dubois school, located in downtown Port-au-Prince, suffered heavy damage from last year’s earthquake. Founded in 1913, it has provided secondary education and vocational training to generations of young Haitian women, under the guidance of the Daughters of Mary, a Catholic order.
The IDB and the foundation announced contributions totaling $800,000 during a ceremony held in the school’s courtyard and attended by Haitian government officials, international community guests, teachers and students.
"Education is critical for Haiti's future," said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno."Today we are here not only to support the rebuilding of a school, but to express our support for Haiti's efforts to transform its education system."
Together with several donor countries and international organizations, the IDB is supporting Haiti’s ambitious reform to expand access to free and quality education.
Education Minister Joel Desrosiers Jean-Pierre noted that international aid allowed Haiti to resume classes for more than one million students after the earthquake, which destroyed or damaged thousands of schools.
The education reform plan also entails the construction of some 2,500 schools across the country over five years, as well as the reconstruction of schools such as Elie Dubois.
“I am sure that the only thing that will change the course of Latin America and the Caribbean’s destiny is for governments to make it a priority to invest in quality education for all boys and girls, from the moment they are born and forever,” said Shakira.
The singer and the IDB share a strong interest in early childhood development. Her foundation promotes education, nutrition and health programs for young victims of poverty and violence in Colombia, where it has built five schools serving more than 4,000 children, their families and their communities.
Architecture for Humanity, an NGO specialized in the design and construction of schools, clinics and housing in areas affected by natural disasters, is working on the Elie Dubois project.
Since the earthquake, 240 Elie Dubois students have been attending classes at a nearby school. In September they will be able to return to their own campus, as the Ministry of Education, with UNESCO’s support, is building semi-permanent classrooms part of the school’s grounds.
Haitian Education Reform
The Haitian education reform plan aims to expand access to education from preschool through college. At present, more than half a million children do not attend school, mostly because their parents can not afford their studies. Only a minority of Haitian schools are public.
Under the reform, the Haitian state will assume a leading supervisory role in the education sector, including the oversight of private schools. Schools eligible to participate in the system will receive subsidies in exchange for reducing or eliminating tuition fees and improving the quality of instruction by training teachers.
At the same time, the Haitian government will invest aggressively in building larger public schools designed to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes.
The IDB expects to contribute $250 million over five years to support the plan. Also aims to raise, mobilize and leverage $250 million more from non-traditional donors, such as private companies and foundations.
With resources from a $50 million IDB grant approved in November, Haiti plans to build or rehabilitate 30 public schools and put up 25 semi-permanent schools.
Since January 2010 the IDB has financed the construction of 800 temporary classrooms in 57 school sites and the distribution of 100,000 backpacks with books and supplies for students. It has also provided financial support to 1,200 schools, enabling some 70,000 children to resume their lessons.
About the IDB
The IDB is Haiti’s largest multilateral donor. Last year it approved $251 million in new grants and disbursed $177 million in budget support and project funding for the Haitian government. In addition to supporting education reform, the IDB's activities in Haiti are concentrated in water and sanitation, agriculture, energy, transport and private sector development.
About the Barefoot Foundation
Shakira created her foundation when she was just 18, seeking to help children in communities affected by poverty and violence. The Barefoot Foundation has five schools offering quality education, nutritious meals and counseling to more than 4,000 children in Colombia. Schools also serve as community centers where programs are carried out to improve local families’ living conditions and incomes.
Architecture for Humanity is a non-profit organization that provides design, construction and sustainable development services through a network of more than 40,000 professional volunteers. Created in 1999, AfH works with community groups, development agencies, foundations, corporations and governments. The NGO shares its lessons learned and best practices through the Open Architecture Network (www.openarchitecturenetwork.org).