USAID and Department of Education Announce Support for Education Initiative

  • Posted on: 6 November 2013
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

Below is a USAID/Department of Education announcement of new funding to support the Room to Learn program in Haiti.  Haiti is one of six Room to Learn focus countries, which focuses on improving access to primary education. An estimated 600,000 out of school Haitian children are functionally illiterate.  Education is critical for their growth as well for the growth of Haiti's economy, civil society, and institutions.



USAID Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein and Senior Advisor for International Education Christie Vilsack traveled to Haiti with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, where he announced a multi-million dollar program in Haiti for USAID’s Room to Learn. Secretary Duncan joined Haitian President Michel Martelly, Haitian Minister of National Education Vanneur Pierre and Associate Administrator of USAID Mark Feierstein to announce the new, multi-year Room to Learn program in Haiti that will focus on making education more accessible for all children. Worldwide, 57 million children are out of school, and hundreds of thousands of primary-school-age children in Haiti do not have access to education. Haiti is one of six focus countries for USAID's Room to Learn initiative, which is designed to increase equitable access to quality education. Through Room to Learn, USAID aims to accelerate progress towards Millennium Development Goal 2, universal access to primary education.


Christie Vilsack stated that "Room to Learn is about providing safe access to schools, rebuilding education systems, and preventing and mitigating the effects of conflict and crisis. USAID is working with ministries and our global partners to provide access to education for millions of out-of-school children so they have the opportunity to learn to read and build the foundations for their success in school and beyond."  Secretary Duncan met with Minister Vanneur Pierre and thanked him for his efforts to provide education for all children in Haiti. The group visited the Ecole St. Jean de Dieu, a school that provides education to vulnerable children, which is a part of Minister Pierre’s initiative to promote equitable access for school-aged children who remain outside the system. Providing access to school and quality learning opportunities to vulnerable children are the type of efforts to be supported through USAID’s Room to Learn program. “Haiti is at a critical juncture in rebuilding its economy and there is a significant governmental consensus and commitment to advancing education reform as part of the effort,” said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education. “Investments in education can grow a nation’s economy and expand opportunities for its citizens. Leaders from both countries share a common desire to create high quality education systems for all that adequately prepare our children for success in their personal and professional lives.


Secretary Duncan, Mark Feierstein and Christie Vilsack met with President Martelly to discuss education in Haiti, partnership between the U.S. and Haitian governments, and President Martelly’s goal to provide universal, compulsory access to education in Haiti. USAID works closely with the Government of Haiti to build the capacity of the education system and provide safe, equitable education to children. Secretary Duncan also visited a USAID-funded early grade reading program being implemented in 300 schools in Haiti.


Read more about the U.S. Government’s education efforts in Haiti and about the Room To Learn Initiative.


Associated Press
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- A senior U.S. official visiting Haiti called Tuesday for greater transparency to improve the quality of education in the Caribbean country's long-struggling classrooms. In an interview with The Associated Press, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he believes that easier access to information can help improve education standards in Haiti by letting people know more about student and teacher enrollment and by letting them track student progress. "One of the many needs here are clear data systems, having transparency, knowing basic things, like how many children we have, how many schools there are, how many teachers we have," Duncan said. "I think it's so important that everybody be transparent and honest on the good, the bad and the ugly." These data networks would also help educators know how many college graduates are staying in Haiti, which has one of the highest rates of brain drain the world, Duncan said.
Haitian President Michel Martelly, with whom Duncan met Monday, promised as a candidate to make education free and mandatory. He says a school tuition program financed by wire transfers and international phone calls has put 1.3 million children in school, though there's been no independent verification to confirm the numbers. On his two-day trip, Duncan visited a school where the children sleep on the streets at night. He also saw a seventh-grade class with more than a hundred students. "Far from ideal conditions," said Duncan, who came to Haiti at the invitation of Haiti's education minister, Vanneur Pierre. Duncan's visit came as the U.S. Agency for International Development announced a $15 million grant to improve literacy rates in Haiti. Most schools in Haiti are in deplorable conditions and attrition rates are high. Only about a half of Haiti's children are able to attend primary school, and less than a fourth make it to secondary school, according to the U.N. children agency UNICEF.

Wadley Germain, 10, has had an eventful few years. The Haitian girl and her family lost their home in the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Afterward, Partners In Health supported them with health care and other services in the camp where they lived. Her education interrupted by the earthquake, Wadley wanted to attend classes at a makeshift school in the camp, but her mother didn’t have money to pay tuition. But Wadley insisted, and she was allowed to stay. Her story inspired the filmmakers behind Girl Rising, an innovative documentary that tells the story of girls around the world who persevered in gaining access to education. Wadley starred as the first character in the film, which was released this year. Then came fame. She attended showings of the film in Port-au-Prince, dressed in a lacy white gown. She made friends with Edwidge Danticat, the renowned Haitian author who wrote Wadley’s story for the film. Then, this week, she met U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at an education conference in Petionville. Duncan and other top U.S. education officials visited Haiti this week to announce a grant to increase access to education in the country.
In the meeting, Wadley asked Duncan what he was doing to help Haiti, and he asked her what she thought he should do. Wadley told him Haiti needs more trained teachers, books for students, and Internet for students to learn. She told the secretary that she wants to study informatics when she's older. When Wadley told Duncan that her favorite subject was math, the two challenged each other to solving math problems. “It was really sweet to see how the major education policy leaders of the U.S. were starstruck meeting Wadley and all wanted pictures with her,” said Cate Oswald, PIH senior program officer for Haiti, who befriended Wadley after the earthquake and helped translate at the meeting. “They've all seen the movie Girl Rising and are huge fans of Wadley and her perseverance that kept her in school.”

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