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Culture, too neglected in Haitian schools

  • March 6, 2024
  • 17
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“Haitian students do not know the culture of their country, which makes their learning incomplete,” says Jacques Michel Gourgues, doctor of educational sciences.

In Haiti, the cultural deficit at school contributes to school dropouts, causes a loss of connection between generations, thus compromising social cohesion, according to specialists contacted by AyiboPost.

“The Haitian student does not know the culture of his country, which makes his learning incomplete,” declares Jacques Michel Gourgues, doctor of educational sciences.

Important components such as Haitian music, painting, dance and cuisine, historical monuments, tourist and mystical places in the country, and other local knowledge, which should participate in the construction of a common identity and the The development of the learner is very little emphasized, according to Gourgues.

“Our African origins, for example, are not highlighted enough in our school programs. The students know very little about it, apart from the geographical location of the continent,” continues the researcher.

“All this creates citizens detached from their own reality,” underlines to AyiboPost the author of the book entitled “School textbooks in Haiti: Tools of coloniality” released in 2016.

Our African origins, for example, are not highlighted enough in our school programs. The students know very little about it, apart from the geographical location of the continent.

The educational reform initiated in 1982 by the Minister of National Education at the time, Joseph Claude Bernard, emphasizes the importance of culture in the training of the learner.

Nesmy Manigat, current Minister of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP), tells AyiboPost of his ambition to implement initiatives aimed at promoting and enhancing culture and art within the education system.

Read also: Nesmy Manigat: «Economic interests manipulate many opinions on reform»

The integration of new subjects into school programs, the promotion of Creole and the signing of several memoranda of understanding with other cultural institutions are part of its efforts.

But according to Nesmy Manigat, the ministry faces a budget problem to recruit specialized teachers, whether from the National School of Arts (ENARTS) or from other faculties, to integrate the education system.

“Only 10% of the state budget is allocated to education, and the value of gross domestic product (GDP) allocated to education is only 1%,” complains the MENFP holder.

The integration of new subjects into school programs, the promotion of Creole and the signing of several memoranda of understanding with other cultural institutions are part of its efforts.

These steps are laudable. This is the opinion of Jacques-Michel Gourgues. However, said the professor, in a context where the doors of hundreds of schools remain closed and thousands of children are forced to stay at home, the impacts will remain mixed. “It’s a drop in the ocean,” analyzes Gourgues.

The incorporation of culture into education, as a fundamental element for both identity and intellectual development, would offer a deeper understanding of the country’s history and its traditions, while training students to play an active role in the progress of their country, according to specialists.

Read also: Opinion | Haitian schools seem to be more conservative than churches

In 2004, noting the glaring shortage of cinemas in the country, the “Mwèm” foundation inaugurated a series of initiatives including “Sinema anba zetwal”, aimed at carrying out cinematographic screenings in various municipalities and communal sections of the country.

This initiative then evolved into “Mobi Ciné” during the 2010s, while preserving its initial objective. This time, it has extended to working-class neighborhoods, schools, libraries and cultural centers dedicated to youth.

But in 2020, Mobi-Ciné stopped due to rising insecurity.

“The experience I had with Mobi-Ciné reveals the imperative need to cultivate cultural awareness,” Raymond Noël, known as Welele Doubout, manager and operator within the Foundation, explains to AyiboPost.

Only 10% of the state budget is allocated to education, and the value of gross domestic product (GDP) allocated to education is only 1%.

For Allenby Augustin, general director of the Art Center, exposure to art and culture helps nourish the learner’s imagination by drawing on various sources such as: cinema, literature, theater, music and dance, etc.

“These elements have a considerable influence on the intellectual and social development of the individual, contributing to the emergence of their critical spirit,” he underlines.

According to Éliézer Guérismé, communications director of the Reading theater festival, the problem manifests itself among certain parents and school administrators.

“Some people responsible for children have a very poor perception of art. They consider it a “waste of time”,” explains Guérismé.

Since 2019, the management of “En lisant” has organized theater sessions intended for school audiences. This is with the aim of helping students learn about art and flourish. “But sometimes, schools do not cooperate, under the pretext that their programs are already busy,” Guérisme reports to AyiboPost.

Some caregivers have a very poor perception of art. They consider it a “waste of time”.

In recent years, cultural and artistic spaces have faced significant challenges in accomplishing their mission with the acceleration of security and economic crises.

Places of entertainment and cultural dissemination such as theaters and cinemas are permanently closed.

Museums, art galleries, libraries and cultural centers are malfunctioning.

Cultural events are becoming rare and attract fewer and fewer people. Access to historical, heritage and archaeological sites has become increasingly difficult.

Read also: Due to insecurity in Haiti, cultural centers can no longer operate

Inaugurated in 1983, the Museum of the Haitian National Pantheon (MUPANAH) is the only space where the remains and relics that belonged to the fathers of Haitian independence are reserved.

This institution’s mission is to preserve and disseminate Haitian cultural and historical heritage.

For Martine Bruno Boucicault, communications director of the museum, the institution does its best to ensure its role by reaching out to the public, particularly schools.

“But in recent years, schools outside of Port-au-Prince are no longer able to visit the museum,” she explains.

Cultural events are becoming rare and attract fewer and fewer people. Access to historical, heritage and archaeological sites has become increasingly difficult.

Francisco Silva, painter and illustrator in Haiti for almost fifteen years, shares the same perception.

Appreciation of art and culture has often been undervalued in our society, characterized by a persistent clannish tendency that hinders its full development.

“In a rural environment, for example, a young person endowed with artistic talent finds himself limited in his exploitation of it, whether in the fields of dance, theater, plastic arts or music, if he doesn’t go to a big city or Port-au-Prince,” shares Silva.

Silva leads several workshops on art with children in Port-au-Prince and in provincial towns.

“When I work particularly in remote regions to lead artistic workshops, whether on painting or plastic art, I notice a real thirst to learn and flourish in the children,” he explains.

“However,” continues Silva, “once the activities are completed, the observation remains: the absence of exhibition and development venues hinders the creative momentum of young people.”

Read also: The slow agony of MUPANAH

In order to reach out to the public outside of Port-au-Prince, MUPANAH had gotten into the habit of organizing memorial activities in provincial towns. But these no longer take place in the current context.

However, once the activities are completed, the observation remains: the absence of exhibition and development venues hinders the creative momentum of young people.

In recent years, initiatives have attempted to fill the reading gap in provincial areas.

This is the case of the Reading and Cultural Animation Centers (CLAC) introduced by the organization of the Francophonie (OIF) since the 2000s.

In order to meet the needs for reading and cultural development in provincial areas and to strengthen public reading, the OIF has established sixteen reading centers that are part of the network of other CLACs around the world.

According to François Nedje Jacques, Coordinator of the CLAC network and municipal libraries at the National Book Directorate (DNL), two of them, including the one located in the commune of Saint Raphaël and that of Plaisance, no longer operate. Two others, located in the commune of Verrettes and Cabaret, had to stop operating for a certain time due to insecurity.

“Contrary to what it was before, we notice a drop in library attendance compared to the current context of the country,” reveals the manager to AyiboPost.

Read also: Guns close the books in Port-au-Prince

Coupled with insecurity, the persistence of the social and economic crisis worsens the situation of families.

For Jacques Michel Gourgues, a child raised in a family whose parents have a library and the means to allow him to be exposed to culture and art from an early age will have a greater chance of succeeding in school than another who does not have these privileges.

“Social inequalities lead to educational inequalities. This explains, in part, the school dropout in Haiti,” says Professor Gourgues.

Contrary to what it was before, we notice a drop in library attendance compared to the current context of the country

According to Datas cited by the United Nations agency for education, science and culture (UNESCO) in Haiti, more than 10% of students drop out of school before the sixth grade and more than 40% at the end of the ninth grade .

Several specialists emphasize the importance of implementing a public policy for access to culture in Haiti, which would help reduce academic failure.

According to the head of the Art Center, Allenby Augustin, if Haitian society does not find its basis in the principles of valorization and cultural transmission, “it will have to face the consequences, such as that of becoming an increasingly fragmented with individuals sharing almost no values.”

Par Lucnise Duquereste & Wethzer Piercin

Cover image: a student painting | © freepik


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Lucnise Duquereste