The first time I went to Haiti, about 15 years ago, I visited 9 Christian Schools and my heart broke for the kids in those classrooms. As a teacher and Education Professor, I just knew they deserved something better! 30-50 students were crammed into small classrooms, one dilapidated chalkboard, no electricity or running water, and most did not have books or school supplies. Learning was by rote memorization and teachers relied on recitation and testing to determine learning.
Fast forward 8 years, to a new ministry focus in Haiti being established by Many Hands for Haiti in Sylvain, Haiti. My son, Tim, (Executive Director for MH4H) asked if I would help with the education side of things as a new program, First 1000 Days, and a new pre-school was being built in Sylvain on the MH4H campus. This new school was not to be your typical Haitian primary school, but a model of what education could be in Haiti.
School of Light’s first grade teacher, Madam Nicole, helps a student with French pronunciation
In 2016 Yellow Iron School of Light Pre-School opened its doors and began to offer three levels of pre-school for 3, 4 and 5 year olds. This past spring SOL graduated its first kindergarten class. Class size was 19 students, with a lead teacher and a teacher assistant. The classroom has tables and chairs instead of benches, electricity, water, latrine, colorful walls, adequate resources, abundant supplies, a playground and an excellent teaching staff. Parents also volunteer hours to assist at the school.
Madame Juna Jean, kindergarten teacher, has set the bar high for the success of her students and this school. She is an excellent teacher and is often sought after to train other teachers in the area. Active learning and learning through play have become part of the curriculum because of the many resources available and the training our teachers receive as part of their on-going staff development days.
Madame Juna taught 8 years previous to joining the SOL staff. When asked some of her impressions of School of Light she quickly shared, “When I came here I saw that the learning process would be different. Here, the kids learn faster because MH4H offers a lot of materials and supplies that we need.”
When asked to explain a little more about what kinds of things they have here that other schools don’t have, she said, “Oh, so many resources! For example, work books. Other schools could go the whole year without books, but here there are enough for every child. Sometimes there are things you want to do with the kids and you have to work hard to find materials, but at Many Hands, everything is already here, ready to go! At Many Hands, they also have respect for the teachers. They pay you on time. At some schools, they can go 3-4 months without paying the teachers. ”
Many Hands and School of Light are fortunate to have teachers like Madame Juna. When these students graduate to the Foundational Level in Haiti, they are ready and prepared, socially and academically, to succeed at any school they choose to attend and they have foundational skills to succeed in life!
When asked if she wanted to share anything else, Madame Juna replied, “I congratulate Many Hands on what they are doing!” The feeling is mutual, Madame Juna. Thank you for what you are doing to build a strong foundation for each child you touch at Yellow Iron School of Light in Haiti!