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Pamela Burdine
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Situation report update

Haiti earthquake response

May 17, 2010

Léogâne is rising from the dust. The city was one of the worst hit areas of the January 12 earthquake.  Approximately 80-90 percent of it was destroyed.  Six out of 10 schools were totally destroyed.

Now 66 out of 184 primary schools have re-opened.

Masséd Dimy, a teacher of école Saint Esprit in the city of Darbonne, was working during the earthquake.

”I was having my geography lesson for 11 students while the earth started to quake”, he says.

Girls in school

School children are working to catch up with peers in unaffected portions of the country. Photo by Maria Halava, ACT Alliance.

Mr. Dimy and his students managed to run out of the school building before it collapsed. All of them survived.

Except for one student, everybody has come back to school. But some of them are still afraid of a new earthquake.

“I felt very stressed afterwards, but now I’m feeling much better. My only fear is that there will be a new earthquake which is even stronger than the previous one”, Mr. Dimy tells us. 

Both teachers and students have received psychosocial support to cope with fears the earthquake caused. Discussions have helped them to understand what happened and to handle their traumas.

Revised curriculums to catch up

With support from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in cooperation with the ACT Alliance, five of the largest schools in the areas of Léogâne, Grand Goave and Petit Goave are now up and running in school tents.

In école Saint-Esprit, seven tents put up in the school playground started operating three weeks ago and are now hosting several hundred students from kindergarten to secondary school, with more returning to school each day.

Before the earthquake, there were approximately 600-700 students in the school.  Some people have moved away from the area and some students are still afraid of coming back to school.

Tents are often divided in two parts with tarps and sheets. One tent can host up to 80 students. As the number of students increases, the school facilities will be used in multiple shifts to accommodate all the students.

Girls in front of a tent

Temporary school facilities are being used until permanent structures can be built. The goal is to rebuild at least 30 schools. Photo by Maria Halava, ACT Alliance.

Primary school teacher Pierre Mesgline is teaching 34 children of 6 or 7 years old.

“Classes start at 7 o’clock in the morning. Since we finish one hour earlier than usual, we have been forced to make some changes to the curriculum”, she tells.

Clearing of rubble of the totally damaged school building is going on in the courtyard of école Sainte Croix in Léogâne.

Being one of the few schools now operating again in the area, école Sainte Croix is open to all children in the area, also taking in students from surrounding schools that were destroyed. 

“Before the school started operating on April 5th, we had a meeting with parents and made a list of all students who would attend”, says Jean Baptiste Emmanuelle from the Episcopal Church.

When new students arrive, they will be added to the list.

Ecole Sainte Croix is still missing lots of materials, such as tables, chairs and blackboards, that were destroyed in the earthquake. Replacement furniture has been ordered from a local contractor and will be distributed this week. School kits have already arrived and are being distributed to teachers and students.

The biggest concern, though, seems to be the heat which cannot be avoided at this time of the year. Especially in May the temperatures start rising high. Shade netting has been installed to alleviate the heat but students will have to try and study through some of the hot summer months to catch up with their peers in the rest of the country.

The aim of our local partners and co-members of the ACT Alliance is to have all the 30 target schools fully operational with access to clean drinking water, sanitation facilities and a school feeding program within the next six months. After this period, the activities will shift towards permanent reconstruction.

In June-July they will start building a model school for approval by the Ministry of Education in Haiti. Eventually, the aim is to reconstruct all 30 schools in the area, and maybe build even more.

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