Will I see you tomorrow?
Yes I think so. A sigh of content from me.
Sheri was one of two female students in our class of 10 males where I was volunteering with English in Mind. Not many girls stay in school in Haiti. I was hoping Sherri would.
It’s one of the challenges of the education system in a country that has experienced its share of civil conflict, political upheaval, and natural disasters. Females in the classroom are hard to come by. Basic schooling is subsidized by the state and readily available to everyone, but most classrooms are filled by boys. So what is holding Haiti’s girls back?
One third of girls over age six never go to school in Haiti
Even though she sat at the back of the classroom, she intimately listened and took in every detail. It was one of my non-teaching days where I could sit with students during class while other volunteer teachers gave their daily lesson. I sat next to Sherri thinking maybe she would find comfort in sitting with another girl. She was quiet and reserved, shy to ask a question or raise her hand but she peered with curiosity. I loved her sense of curiosity. She quietly whispered questions in my ear and I whispered the answers to her right back. I encouraged her to join in on a fun game of Headbandz too!
Sheri was a positive example that women in Haiti can and want to learn. She dispels some of the misconceptions that, in places like Haiti and the underdeveloped world, girls are “not motivated” or “capable” of being educated. But many girls in Haiti dream of filling a backpack with textbooks, learning new things, rising in the early mornings and hopping into a tap-tap to go to school.
Unfortunately, most of them don’t.
I asked the boys in my class, should girls go to school too? A moment of prejudice came over me and I instantly made the assumption they perceived girls were not welcome in the classroom or had no place in it.
I was surprised by the answer. These students openly and honestly wished they saw more girls studying alongside them and receiving the same education. They see value in an educated sister, a wife, or a daughter. For them, educated women can have their own opportunities, be employed, and equally contribute to the household like men do. It was refreshing to hear they believe women can be just as successful as they can.
Why Teach English to Girls
We know education for everyone matters, no matter your gender. Education undoubtedly creates change. But educating girls and women is especially effective because when we educate them, the benefits are felt not only by them but everyone around them. Educated women can:
Educate an entire community. They are more likely to marry later, have children later, teach their own children, and even their children’s children – a positive life cycle destined to repeat itself with future generations.
Foster an economy. They participate in the labour market and boost economic productivity, which leads to greater wealth for their family and their community.
Develop sustainability. They build relationships with other women in their community and share what they learn, like how to improve their environment or overall health.
Become entrepreneurs and start their own business.
Prevent slavery and trafficking. Education creates women who are independent, self-sustainable and more empowered.
Rebuild Haiti. Particularly after the destructive earthquake in 2010, imagine how much women can nurture their country back to health – from aid workers to teachers, or simply citizens with a voice in their neighbourhoods, involved in the decision-making process or how to spend aid in their communities.
“Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.” – African proverb
If we deny girls and women education the whole community suffers, not just them as individuals.
The harsh reality is that young girls in Haiti still face heavy barriers no matter how seemingly accessible education may be or how much men would like more educated women in their communities. Many young girls bear the responsibility of household chores, manual labour, caring for siblings or looking after ill family members. If none of the above, then 17% of Haitian girls are married in adolescence and likely have children soon after according to the UN Foundation. In between, it leaves little room to study or attend class so most girls who start school just don’t finish.
I hope Sheri will be one of them who does finish. I would like to go back to Haiti this year and my hope is that I will see her again, this time sitting at the front of the classroom instead of the back, leading discussions, even answering questions and asking them.
I truly believe in the project and work that EIM is doing to help bring education to more girls (and boys) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The school is personally supported by donations from people; they receive no funding or assistance by the government so fundraising is their main source of income. If you can help, please consider giving, even if it’s only a small amount. Money raised can help buy school supplies like notebooks and pencils, even chalkboard erasers for teachers (I brought a bunch of old socks to use when I was there).
Big big THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!!