Rehabilitated schools welcome back students after earthquake
17 January 2022
Children in four schools which were damaged by devastating earthquake which struck Haiti in August, are due to return to newly renovated buildings
A few more bricks, a bit of putty and a coat of paint, Renel Begrade working through the tropical afternoon heat is hastily finishing the last wall of the Notre Dame de Lamercie school in the commune of Fonds-des-Nègres in Nippes, one of the regions worst affected by the earthquake that devastated Haiti in August.
More than 2,200 people died and, with 1,200 schools destroyed, thousands of schoolchildren were unable to attend school. Some 345,000 children who depend on the World Food Programme (WFP) for daily school meals were also facing going hungry.
“We must be quick, everything has to be ready in a few weeks for the return of the first students,” says the mason, who was born in the village.
The walls of this school, which hosted more than 200 students, did not withstand the earthquake tremors. “That day was one of the worst of my life... everyone was in tears,” says Renel Begrade, adding: “Of course, I thought we wouldn't be able to have a school here again for a long time.
“We are reconstructing a solid building. And for me working on this site means that I am able to earn enough money to pay for my child's school fees.”
Ensuring the return of thousands of children to the classroom is a priority for the Haitian government. They are unable to study, to meet their friends in the playground and they are no longer assured of one hot meal per dayin school canteens.
“When we heard that we were going to get help to rebuild the school, smiles returned to the faces of students, teachers and all the people in the community,” says Etienne Molière, the school’s director.
“This will help to heal some of the scars of the earthquake…We are looking forward to the inauguration of the new building.”
For the past three months, the emergency team of the Ministry of Education and the Directorate of School Engineering, supported by WFP, have been working hard to rehabilitate the destroyed schools in a record time despite the persistent wounds left by the earthquake, the insecurity resulting from gang violence, and the fuel crisis that all hinder access and progress on the construction site.
Thanks to a simple design by WFP, a temporary structure has been erected that has the potential to be transformed into a permanent structure. The module includes a classroom, kitchen and storage space and can be expanded to include additional classrooms.
The Haitian government has mobilized local authorities, and water, sanitation and hygiene agencies, is working with the private sector, UN organizations, including UNICEF and UNOPS, and NGOs on issues ranging from access to clearing debris.
“We had to take into account the risk of natural disasters in the region. So, thanks to the engineering team, the newly rebuilt schools are all earthquake and cyclone resistant,” says Tanguy Armand, WFP’s Head of Infrastructure in Haiti. He emphasizes the modern design of the new buildings: “The space is airy, bright, and includes access for people with reduced mobility. We’re already seeing an increase in new enrollment.”
The first four schools costing $80,000 each were funded by Switzerland.
By the end of 2022, WFP, working with the Ministry of Education, hopes to rebuild 190 schools in three departments, but to do so, over $16 million needs to be raised.
In the meantime, Renel Begradeis proud to have finished the construction of one of the first renovated schools. In a few days, he will accompany his own son for a back-to-school experience they will both surely remember. “I really thought the school door would stay closed this year - but with this project, life starts all over again,” he says.
For this new school year, WFP has received support from Canada, Education Cannot Wait, France, and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Mc Govern Dole Programme for its school feeding programmes.
The article was originally published to the UN in Haiti website. To learn more about the work taking place in the country, visit: Haiti.UN.org.