Haiti youth ambassador appeals for education help

PARAMARIBO, Suriname: Haiti’s CARICOM Youth Ambassador Leticia Cadet has made an impassioned plea to the Caribbean Community to help rebuild the education system in Haiti. In particular, she wants the regional grouping to provide scholarships for Haitians to attend the University of the West Indies (UWI).

At a special meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) in Paramaribo, Suriname, she recalled the devastation caused by the earthquake on January 12, which crippled Port-au-Prince.

Cadet said Haiti needed the support of its partners, including members of the CARICOM Community, to continue providing education to its current students “to avoid creating a potentially detrimental gap in qualified human resources”.

“Current efforts are focusing on providing food, water and shelter but, in the coming months and years, the most pressing issue will become the lack of qualified human resources to rebuild Haitian society, which will result from the generations of displaced students unable to access quality education during and following the crisis,” stated a petition endorsed by Cadet as well as other Haitian CARICOM youth ambassadors and former ambassadors.

“The demand for quality education is, and will continue to be, very critical. In this time of crisis, Haiti needs the support of its partners, including members of the CARICOM Community, to continue providing education to its current students to avoid creating a potentially detrimental gap in qualified human resources.”

Cadet said Haiti had little capacity and few facilities to offer tertiary education, and that the earthquake had further weakened the tertiary education system.

Haiti has one state university with nearly 23,000 students. Each year 18,000 youth seek attendance at an undergraduate school, but only 3,000 are admitted. During the earthquake, the School of Nursing and the School of Human Sciences collapsed and the other buildings were damaged. It is likely that the students who escaped will not only lose the rest of the academic year but their education and training might be disrupted for a longer period.

Cadet called on the COHSOD to impress upon CARICOM Heads of Government the need to provide at least 20 scholarships per year for the next five years for Haitian students to attend UWI, starting this fall. In addition, she expressed hope that the university would be more “flexible” in enrolling Haitian students during this special disaster relief effort.

Cadet also urged CARICOM to develop a mechanism that would help youth in Haiti to access funding for entrepreneurship. Those young people, she said, would also get support and mentoring from the university and the private sector of Haiti.

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