Secondary Reading and Writing Project in Haiti

Lesley Bartlett and Patricia Velasco

Professors Lesley Bartlett and Patricia Velasco, along with six students from Teachers College, are working with the teachers’ collective Pwof Ansanm in Wanament, Haiti to facilitate the inclusion of reading and writing at the secondary level. Supported by a $15,000 grant from the TAG Foundation and a $5,000 grant from the International Reading Association, the project aims to develop French-language curricular materials as well as professional development modules for teachers. The modules focus on how best to integrate reading and writing in French in overcrowded, under-resourced classrooms with students whose first language is Haitian Creole.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 8 million residents who earn a per capita income of $361 per year. Education in Haiti is in a crisis: the 2008 'Education for All' Report indicated that Haiti fell last out of 186 countries in achieving the Millennium Development Goals for education. The educational system consists of 90% private schools with little oversight, and grossly underfunded public schools. Rural schools in towns such as Wanament and Ferrier, where Pwof Ansanm works, have fewer resources and opportunities than urban schools. Of the total spending on education in Haiti, 20% goes to rural schools, where 70% of the population lives. Few teachers in rural Haiti have formal teacher training, and most have no opportunity for learning new pedagogical methods.

Pwof Ansanm has, for the past several years, developed a training program for 300+ area teachers working in 21 secondary schools in inquiry-based, student-centered approaches to teaching. This second phase of the project will concentrate on developing or locating appropriate curricular materials and developing, with teachers, content-area lessons that are print-rich and promote critical thinking.

For more information on Pwof Ansanm, please check their website: http://www.pwofansanm.org/. Anyone interested in volunteering with the project is urged to contact Professor Lesley Bartlett at lb2035@columbia.edu.