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Emmanuel W. VEDRINE

Etienne Chavannes

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A HEALING PARADIGM FOR A NEW HAITI –– ABSTRACT: The objective of this book of essays is to try to present “The Haitian Reality” through a collection of selected articles I wrote between 1990 and 2007. The book is divided into 8 chapters (Civics, Education, Environment, Development, Haitian history, Haitian youth, Haitian language, and Haitian politics) where these articles are classified accordingly by subjects. There would be so much to say about such a broad theme, but here it is limited to a panorama to open up the path to this interesting and crucial subject for further discussion.

As a Haitian who has been living in Diaspora since 1976, I still remain connected with the homeland where, on a daily basis, I feel troubled by Haiti’s mountain of problems which in a way also makes me think of the semantics of Haiti’s indigenous name Ayiti, meaning mountainous land. In Haiti, one would find a chain of mountains throughout the country that many of my compatriots (both in Haiti and in the Diaspora) share my feelings and future expectations for a better Haiti.

These writings are a way to talk about some of these problems and some of their possible solutions at the same time to an expansive audience, a way to force the mind of many compatriots to develop a critical and creative consciousness, a whole wake-up call for a collective work that can lead to the contribution of something positive toward the development and welfare of our dear Haiti. With many hands, the burden is light and concentrated and thus worthwhile…

For those researching on Haiti, it is not easy to find books of “essays” that would touch on “Haiti’s Reality” or “the Haitian Reality”, a subject that I’ve been interested in and one that I have tried to work on in the last decade. As a native of Haiti and one who has lived this reality, one who has also traveled widely to observe other parts of the world to compare and contrast, and as a conscious writer who has been dreaming to see a new Haiti, a democratic one where human rights are being respected, and where everyone would be able to receive a free education (as it is stipulated in the 1987 Constitution, a Haiti where everyone would be able to eat at least a full meal once a day, a Haiti where everyone would feel secure, one where corruption would not find an easy and permanent home, one where nobody would be above the law, one where everyone can be engaged in some daily activities, one where violence of any type would be buried, etc...

I am very delighted to have contributed to this type of writing, not just as one of the witnesses of part of the unfolding history of the 20th and 21st  century but also as someone who is trying to contribute to a type of legacy from which the new generation of Haitians and the ones to come will benefit from. I hope that every reader of this book finds in every single page something that stimulates their thinking to reflect deeper and deeper on issues pertaining to Haiti.

A LOOK AT THE PROBLEM OF SCHOOLS IN HAITI –– ABSTRACT: As a schoolboy going to school in Haiti in the late 60s, I can still remember these old years and what I have observed. Becoming a teacher in the United States in the late 80s, I took more time reflecting on the problem of schools and education in my homeland. As writer and researcher, I feel an obligation not only to write about Haiti, but also to produce some writings that are consciousness-raising, critical and creative writings that would expose Haiti’s problems. So far, I am delighted to have put some time aside to work on this research that deals with some of the problems of education in Haiti.

I also elaborate on the language issue in the Haitian schools. In our discussion on the use of Creole in the classroom, we know today it’s a reality that Creole is the dominant language at the oral level, but it has not been yet the dominant one at the written level. That is, there is a need for a real language policy, one that would go along with a progressive politics of education that many have been dreaming of. As conscious teachers and writers, we believe that there suppose to have development of teaching materials in the native language that would cover all subjects and at all levels. Translation of books must be done, particularly books that students need or those they are using as texts. This can allow students to read and carry out research when they can find books available in French and Creole in schools and in both public and private libraries.

When looking at the problem facing Haiti in all domains, it is impossible for all Haitians to sit down and wait for the government to do everything from “A” to “Z” for the country to move forward. Yes, we can say that the government’s participation is crucial and it must be omnipresent in all decisions that are to be taken for the country’s welfare. But also at the same time, everyone (without distinction) must change their attitude and their way of thinking. We can repeat a very important phrase uttered by president John F. Kennedy, Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. It’s a phrase that has a huge importance today, where many people everywhere in the world (particularly those who are living in Diaspora, far away from their country) are looking somehow for a way to help their home country the way they can. So, we think that it is very important for Haitians in this sense on the problem of schools in Haiti, to say: ask not what schools in Haiti can do for you, but what you can do for schools in Haiti.

This research, as noticed, is divided into 13 chapters (including an appendix). Certainly, it is the first extensive research on the subject available online in Creole (Yon koudèy sou pwoblèm lekòl Ayiti. I’ve decided to make the Creole version available to the public so that everyone can have access to it where they can feel free to use it in seminars or workshops to help teachers in Haiti. For those (Haitians) who can read (French or Creole), they can make an effort to read it and think about it also so that everyone may become conscious of this serious situation in Haiti, and what everyone can do to help the country, some schools, some literacy programs, support group of people who are trying to do some work somehow to help Haiti (not only in the area of education, but also in other domains). People who have access to the great tool called the “internet” who can write will think of making some documents available online free of charge also to help schools in Haiti or to bring, somehow, a contribution in this area.

With the problem of “documentation” that Haiti has been facing since a very long time, we are certain that there have been some talks, papers presented on the theme (not too long ago), and that they did not appear in the bibliography of this research. But unfortunately, there are not “Haitian research centers” that are well-equipped where one would find certain information on Haiti in some reviews or periodicals that would be published regularly (though there aren’t many), and then people would find them easily to carry out research on some specific subject. Furthermore, most Haitians who are doing research don’t use the internet properly to publish their research or a summary of them so that people would have access to them or, somehow, appear in a website.

In terms of statistics on a number of important data concerning “the problem of schools in Haiti”, for anyone who is doing research, they will see that most of these data would be dated since over twenty years ago. So, it’s not a big deal repeating some of these old information (here) that would touch on recent reality of the problem, but it is important to mention it. As readers, please don’t hesitate to send your comments or criticism to the author or the publisher or publish them somehow. Finally, despite of all criticism that can be done on ‘the problem of schools in Haiti’, there are small efforts that can be done by simple citizens of good heart, but if the Haitian government (who has the mighty power), does not intervene to make some key decisions by playing their part, we will put many question marks on when real changes will start taking place for sure at the national level so that all the country’s children would benefit from a real free education (until reaching a certain level) the way it has being stipulated in the constitution.

EXCERPT from an interview with the author –– “The work that I have done in A look at the problem of schools in Haiti was partly motivated by my work as a teacher in the Haitian Bilingual Program in Boston.  However, my work is very much directed at the challenges of education in Haiti.  It is a habit of mine to return to Haiti (in my discussions) in order to analyze some of the problems within the school system there.  As you know, there are so many problems within Haitian schools and my return helps me to really understand or show the readers, students, and teachers the problem and its source so that they can be able to analyze and propose solutions.

I discuss the language issue in order to bring enlightenment on both French and Creole.  We know that in Haiti during the 30-year dictatorship, educators there never really talked about the serious problems Haitian education had been confronting.  In fact, one of the confusions that have been propagated is the exaggerated concern between French and Creole in order to avoid showing that it’s politics that cause the major problems and not whether the school is committed to French or Creole.  As a language teacher and someone who has studied Linguistics, I contend that the problem of language is important, but secondary to the reality of politics.  It is politics that can create the conditions for educational quality and opportunity in Haiti and not what language one speaks.  Language is just a medium; any language can be used in education. So, the real problem is not really one between French and Creole, the way many educators in Haiti used to show it in order to avoid touching on the political reality or divorced themselves from it, and how it really defines the contours of our educational expectations.

I take my position on that and at the same time as researcher and writer who cares deeply about the “Haitian Reality”, I feel that I have a responsibility to do a job that would advance the Creole language as the main language medium in the educational system in Haiti.  Further, I try to advance it in the Haitian Diaspora in all bilingual programs.  I do believe in what I am doing and I stand firmly on it.  On the issue of language again, we must not forget the attitudes that we are sometimes dealing with when some Haitian teachers put forth negative attitudes against Creole.  That‘s another problem we can analyze and why some teachers insist upon using only French as the language for Haitian students.  So, they don’t see the use of Creole as a medium to help Haitian children in their transition in the bilingual program.  Bilingualism is under scrutiny in the Diaspora while Creole is the Haitian educational structure is under scrutiny as the official language there.  Negative attitudes in both the Diaspora and Haiti about the Creole language must be changed.  Language then is the crucial link waiting in the wings to come forth and do its job in Haiti once Haitian politics restructure an educational system for sustained excellence.  Creole is the native language and it must be respected and officially used.  I stand by that. Also, I think that the Diaspora can play an important role in helping to accomplish that goal because, for instance, in Boston, though there is resistance by some Haitian educators, the fact remains that Creole is used in the Boston Schools System as the official language of Haitian students who are in bilingual programs.” (Ref. in A healing paradigm for a new Haiti).

IDEAS TO FOUND A PRIVATE HAITIAN HIGH SCHOOL IN BOSTON –– ABSTRACT: This is a debate between Morel Berthold, Emmanuel W. Védrine and Tony Jean-Jacques (1960-2001) on the issue to found a private Haitian High School in Boston, the problems of Haitian students in American schools, and the value of education in Haitian society with an emphasis on bilingualism and bilingual education.

All three of us have lived in the Haitian community of Boston. Following our observations in the community, as well as all of our experience in the American society and schools, we see that it is important for everyone in the community to work together. To succeed, we must be educated. And we, Haitians, who care about the community and the growing generation, we know that education is the last chance left for us, to liberate ourselves and other Haitians, is “education.” We are often told that education is free, that everyone has a right to have an education. Great word!

We Haitians from Haiti, who have lived the reality of our country, we are used to beautiful words, beautiful phrases, and deceptive speech in French. But what interests us the most is “action” and “practice”. So, we don’t look at theory only. Who has really received a real education: rich or poor people? I leave the answer to the readers. When we recognize that 85% of our people cannot read and write, we cannot say that education is free for everyone, everywhere. And this applies especially to these innocent people who have landed here in this country, and who work very hard, days and nights in factories and in other low-paying jobs. Even if they didn’t have access to education at home, at least their children who are here, the growing generation here should receive an adequate education the same way many other ethnic groups who live in this country do. We can observe the problems of young Haitians in school here: many are like wild goats in a prairie, without owners, without guides.

We see that it’s time to think about them, to think of creating something for them, to think of their future so that they can avoid spending the rest of their lives in jail. As we consider their performance in school and their isolation as an ethnic group, we believe that it’s important for the whole community to work together to think of their future, because tomorrow, they are the ones who will replace us, they are the ones who will represent the community. It is with this purpose that the three of us gathered at my dorm at Harvard University (on April 17, 1994) for a first debate on the education of young Haitians in the community. As the Haitian saying goes, Nou pa gen lajan, men nou gen jan (We don’t have money, but we have good humor). It’s true that we don’t have money to try to do all that is possible in the community, but we think that it is important to write these ideas down, as a way to facilitate communication with the community and to see how they might become a reality. Men anpil, chay pa lou (Many hands make the burden light)…

SEASON OF DROUGHT IN HAITI –– ABSTRACT: One of Haiti’s rare historical novels embracing the problems of Haitian peasants and why they are living Haiti to migrate to the Dominican Republic, to other places in the Caribbean and Miami. This novel also covers many other problems that Haiti has been facing. Written in 1992, it was first published in Haitian Creole in 1994. It has been widely used as a textbook in many Haitian Bilingual Programs in the United States, including some high schools in Haiti. The philosophy and psychology of the characters are about the same: they all would like to see a beautiful Haiti, one where everyone can work together. They are victims of the drought, of the crimes going on in the country and o abuses done to them. They are leaving Haiti for same causes though they like the country but the situation forces them to leave. Despite of all the crimes and abuses committed to them, they don't ask for anything wrong to happen to the crimininals, but they would like them give up all that is evil, they would like them to change so that there can be a real change in the country.

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Emmanuel W. Védrine
e-mail : creolepublisher@hotmail.com

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