Site de promotion des cultures et des langues créoles
Annou voyé kreyòl douvan douvan

Orientation Seminar for Haitian Students
coming to the United States

Emmanuel W. Védrine

Photo E. W. Vedrine Creole Project

Avril 22, 2019

version : vèsyon
English | Española | Deutsche |  Française |  Italiana | Kreyòl ayisyen

It’s always a pleasure for us in our ribrik or topic on «Educating Haitians in Haiti, and Haitians in Diaspora» to orient our countrymen from time to time on many issues we debate on Haiti, where we use voice mails through WhatsApp messages, and then work on their transcripts to document them online. This gives people more access in order to use them in the area of research. Most of these texts are available in English, a way for researchers to find them, and the great Haitian Diaspora (that particularly uses English as contact language, the young generation, and the intellectual milieu).

Before embarking on this important subject, we would like to mention some documents, articles, electronic books we published already on education, schools in Haiti, and the Haitian Bilingual Programs (that existed) in the United States. We add some of their titles as important references for readers to look up:

  1. Educating Haitian Youth and the Haitian Community in diaspora.
  2. Enpòtans pou dekwoche yon diplòm fen etid segondè : L’importance d’acquérir un diplôme de fins d’études secondaires.
  3. Ide pou kreye yon 'High School Ayisyen' prive nan Boston (pdf, 240 KB) : Idea to found a Haitian Private High School in Boston.
  4. Kèk enfòmasyon kle pou ede Kominote Ayisyen : Some key information to help the Haitian Community.
  5. Materyèl pedagojik pou lekòl Ayiti : Teaching materials for schools in Haiti.
  6. Reflection on February 7, 2019 : 33 years after the fall of the Duvalier’s Regime | Refleksyon sou 7 Fevriye 2019 : 33 ane apre Rejim Duvalier a tonbe.
  7. Retard dans l'enseignement des langues étrangères en Haïti.
  8. Rezo Etidyan Ayisyen, Ayiti – Dyaspora : Network of Haitian Students, Haiti – Diaspora.
  9. Seyans Oryantasyon pou ede Jèn Ayisyen Ayiti wè klè : Seminar to orient Haitian Youth in Haiti to see better.
  10. Yon koudèy sou pwoblèm lekòl Ayiti (A look at the problem of schools in Haiti).  (second edition : dezyèm edisyon, 2007. 221 p.).  Abstract : Abstrè.   Circular : Sikilè.

We are taking the youth as target, but we are not going to exclude people who would be older. People can go to school at any age (according to the opportunity they would have, or when they have the opportunity). We are looking at what age bracket they are leaving Haiti [17, 18, 19, 20, etc.]. If they find themselves in this bracket, we are certain that some of them have already reached the Baccalauréat level (I, II -end of the secondary cycle), and the importance that has (as basic education at the international level to start preparing, and orienting themselves toward the world market). This is of great importance, if they complete or reach the Baccalauréat level at this age, and they come to the United States (with their alien card, that is the legal paper for immigrants), where their parents applied for them.

It’s important to come with their grade reports from Haiti (secondary /university level). Upon arriving in the United States, they can have them translated, and notarized. If they are going to high school (Secondary American School), they can always attend it at 16, 17, 18 years old). In certain places, they don’t need to declare their age, and schooling is free (in public high schools) … The advantage that exists when students come with their grade reports is that they are going to evaluate or translate them in English. That way, they can score points (or credits) for subjects or courses they have taken at the secondary level in Haiti (they would spend less time in high school, because they would need a certain number of points to graduate. The High School Diploma or its equivalency is mandatory to attend college /university) …

Upon arriving in the United States (with alien card), the first document one needs to do is social security. It’s an identity with a combination of 9 digits (e.g, 000-00-0000) that will be given to you. This number will identify you (everywhere, in all government data-bases). Once applied at the Social Security Office, it will take less than a week to receive it by mail. It’s not a good idea to walk around with it. Leave it at home along with your alien card. One would not like to lose them in order to avoid headache (spending money to do them over, etc.).

In term of identity, people circulate with is their driving license (a national identity in the United States). So from the age of 17, 18 one can have their driving license. First, go to Motor Vehicle (equivalent to Sikilasyon in Haiti), ask for the Driver’s Manual. Though it’s in English, but now this document has been been translated to some languages that may be available online).

Thus, one can read this booklet directly in the language one knows (if haven’t mastered the English language). Read it well to help you prepare for the permit exam. After about 2, 3 months of practice (with a driving school, or with some friends), you can go back to Motor Vehicle to schedule an appointment for the road test (with a police officer in the state where you are living).

Don’t waste time to do your license (wherever you may be in the diaspora (not only in the United States). This makes it easier for you to move around, to help a friend driving (in case of need) … Once you will have gotten it, you can solve a bunch of little problem in a wink of time… Save money if you think of buying a used car to help you moving-around faster, and for business activities (that may be located a bit far away).

With the advantage of high-tech today, many (young) people, students in the United States (while attending college) don’t waste time looking for jobs here and there. They just use their private cars as (Uber, Lyft, Door Dash) taxi, using the App on their cell phones. They can make a thousand dollars or more weekly (depending on how many days and hours they want to work). This (temporary) job makes it flexible for them to study, and also to finance their studies.

Usually, when immigrants have just arrived in the United States, the ethnic community to which they belong is important in order to maintain contact with. What they are going to find first in that community are churches, community centers, small business, and friends (with whom they kept in touch, and new ones they will be making) for instance… that are related to their culture, and belief. As Haitian, you are going to look for or localize a Haitian church to attend, and visit Haitian community centers.

You will find information there, people who can help you, people who are not selfish and who show fraternity because they know that you just arrived from Haiti. Don’t be shy at all. Try to be open (to talk to everybody so that they can start giving you information). We are certain that there will be people who open up to start helping you with the transition … English, first information you will need is where to learn English (at church, in school, and at community centers) …? It’s important to master it quickly, and there are all possible resources available to you (e.g., materials that you can buy /borrow from libraries, and bilingual dictionaries (Creole–English, English– Creole); French–English, English–French), etc.

English is your master key (you will need it to open all doors everywhere you go). If you are still young, and that you are not yet in your twenties, it is a possibility to spend one or two years in high school. And if you have some difficulties to attend high school, you can go to a community center asking for information on how to prepare yourself to take the G.E.D Exam. Once passing it, you will receive a diploma (equivalent to High School Diploma). All these are opportunities you have to progress or advance in American schools (freely).

Going to high school for a short period of time will not only orient you in the American School System (e.g., how to register for your courses, doing homework, take notes in class, work on a project in group /individually, do research, make class presentations, etc.) but also, it’s an opportunity to start mastering the English language (if you had not studied it at a language institute in Haiti). You will experience a new teaching methodology. This, more or less, will orient you during one or two years that you may spend in a high school.

Graduating from high school -- Many immigrant students, instead of going directly to university (that goes at a faster speed), would instead attend a Community College (that has a two-years program). This type of institution costs less, comparing to what students would pay at a university if they don’t have financial aid or scholarships). In this type of (two-years) college, the education they receive (in various subjects and careers) will help them find professional jobs (in areas such as business, computer science, medical, and technical … whatever career toward which they would like to orient themselves).

Later on, they can go to a (regular) university to complete another two-years for the Bachelor’s degree (equivalent to the License in the French university system). If they continue for another two years of studies (after getting their Bachelor’s), they can get their Master’s degree, and if they go on for four more years to complete the coursework in a doctoral program (and write a dissertation), they will get their Doctorate degree (in different areas or fields of study).

What we recommend to students in Haiti would be to take Mathematics courses seriously (course that would reach the Baccalauréat level, even if they themselves don’t reach this level is no problem). If the student completes Troisième (or the fourth year of secondary school in the French system) in a good school, that student can just take tutoring lessons with someone (who knows the subject well) in order to have time to cover the math at Baccalauréat level (or reach the most advanced secondary level Math).

What’s important upon arriving in the United States is to have the capacity to pass Math and English exams that will be given as part of some tests (but they are not going to look at what grade one left Haiti. As long a person passes their exam, this is what counts).

We also recommend that students in Haiti go to a language institute (once they start the secondary level) so that they start practicing English, and Spanish (in order to master these two languages). We mention language institute because most teachers who are teaching language courses (at the secondary level) don’t have the proper training for that. That’s why many of them would emphasize more on grammar) instead of oral practice in class. Many of them would just orient students to study for good grades on exams. To illustrate or comment on this, we invite you to look at an article we published, entitled: Tardiness in foreign language teaching in Haiti’s schools.

As retired teachers (in the United States), we give the best information (from our observation, and the experience in working with Haitian students in the American School System) in order to orient those in Haiti (not to waste time in bat pakè or memorizing everything – that’s not going to help with anything, but rather essential information they should know in order to succeed in school wherever they may be, and in their field of study).

The reason why they (students) do bat pakè or memorization is that most teachers (at the secondary level) are not trained.  They don’t know the techniques or pedagogical or pedagogical methods (to present a subject in the classroom, so that students grasp it with no problem). Most of them don’t have a Bachelor’s degree or License either in the subject area they are teaching (the way it is mandatory in the United States). They are not certified teachers (or who have teaching certificates from the Ministry of National Education) who have done a mandatory teachers’ program and teachers’ re-training program (each five year). Thus, from time to time in our critics /comments, we are obliged to mention a book (by the late Haitian educator /linguist) Yves Dejean) entitled: Yon lekòl tèt anba nan yon peyi tèt anba [“An upside-down school in an upside-down country”, our translation], to illustrate all these problems (that the government is not interested in solving through a real reform in education in Haiti).

In short, the earlier the better or pi bonè se granmmaten (in our Haitian saying) in terms of work that we should do as teachers, and researchers to orient Haitian students from early on. This will help preparing them better, taking schools seriously because their future depends on the education they are receiving today. Many Haitian parents are not at a level to advise their kids (such as orienting them, put them on good roads in order to help them preparing themselves for tomorrow). Thus, the work of a (good) teacher is double when thinking about the job s/he should do in this sense to orient students (where s/he plays the parents’ role at the same time in providing them with good counseling). It’s a fact that the Haitian government has resigned (or given up), analyzing all the problems that Haiti has been facing in the area of education, and our responsibility (as teachers, researchers, citizens, or individuals) to do a civic job in our capacity to bring our own contribution for change.


 Viré monté