“While a microcredit loan program creates jobs and brings money into the economy, to be successful it has to be supported by education and adequate healthcare. The farmer or market woman (ti marchand) who cannot read, write or do basic arithmetic is sure to be cheated…”
There are no free schools in Haiti of any kind, and as a result the literacy rate is appalling. Various figures from different sources put illiteracy at anywhere from 67% to 87%. Because it is not to the advantage of the Haitian elite - who make up about 1% of the 9 million people in Haiti and run most of the government institutions - to have an educated populace, little has been done to remedy this situation except by the churches . The Catholic church in our sister parish in Pignon, runs 5 elementary schools. The main grammar school in the town of Pignon educates about 850 students and another 600 or so attend schools in the chapels of Savanette, Bohoc, La Belle Mere, Fontaine, and Savane Rouge.
In 2011, in the chapel of Fontaine, the first independent Catholic secondary school in the area, was opened under the leadership of Pierre-Louis Joizil, a young man educated with our help and the generosity of Siena College in Loudonville, NY. After the earthquake destroyed Pierre-Louis’ university in Port au Prince, he was invited to spend a year at Siena College from which he graduated with honors in May of 2011. For the first time ever, the young adults of Fontaine, who can afford a secondary education, will not have to walk 4 hours a day to get to school. In 2014, Father Ronald Mervil, pastor of Notre Dame de Bons Secours, the Catholic Church in Pignon, opened the first diocesan Catholic high school on the Grande Plateau, named Notre Dame High School.
The Bureau of Education of the Diocese of Cap Haitien conducts teacher education programs which include classroom supervision, under the direction of Fr. Gabriel Julmice, a former pastor of Pignon. We support this program and our teachers and sponsor over 250 students in elementary and secondary schools. $85 sends a child to elementary school for a year; $150 to secondary school. There are no free rides, and an education is prized by both parents and children as their ticket out of the extreme misery that is the life of so many Haitians.