A delegation from Howard University traveled to Haiti for Spring Break on a mission of service. Kerry-Ann Hamilton, media relations manager, is chronicling their travels. Here is her third and final post.
David, 15, is a sixth grade student at Ecole Bon Samaritain in Archaie, Haiti. He climbs a mountain every day to get to school. It takes him almost two hours to get there and another two hours to get home.
The day we met, he was in grammar class. His classroom is an unfinished annex located in the rear of the main school building. The walls are exposed concrete bricks and there are no doors or windows in the room. The space houses two classes, which are separated only by an aisle.
David was in the second to last row of the area designated for sixth graders. He rarely looked to his left or right. While the boys around him would occasionally joke, his eyes went from the chalkboard to his textbook and to his notebook. He worked diligently for the entire class period.
After class we spoke briefly with the help of a student translator.
“I love school and I love to learn,” David said.
His teacher Mervilus Adelet teaches the fifth and sixth graders simultaneously. He assigns class work to one group while teaching the other within earshot. David’s teacher alternates every 20 or 30 minutes.
Adelet has been teaching since he was 16 years old. He attended vocational school and did not receive any formal training as a teacher; however, he is very passionate and has a very rhythmic approach to his teaching style. His call-and-response method allows students to be engaged.
“Although I do not get paid every month, the drive of my students and my love for them keeps me coming,” Adelet said.
Roberte Exantus, president of the Haitian Student Association at Howard, worked as a volunteer teacher in Adelet’s class.
“The students are extremely disciplined,” Exantus said. “It was an honor to work with them. I was inspired by David’s determination.
“I was also struck by Wideline. She is 17 and lost her right arm in the earthquake. She was right handed; she is now teaching herself to write with her left hand. There is so much we can learn from this student and so many others like her.”
With guidance from their peers in the School of Education, Howard students taught every subject and provided daily classroom support as the students at Ecole Bon Samaritan prepared for a national examination in a few weeks.
Teachers’ salaries total US$80 a month, but there are times when there is not enough money to pay them. In addition, there is a shortage of teachers in the school. The principal Mirlande Alcene said the assistance we provided this week was a huge help.
On our last day, we were overwhelmed with a series of emotions as we bid farewell to the students of Ecole Bon Samaritan Orphanage and School.
Alcene brought all the students into the schoolyard for an assembly with the Howard delegation.
“For us, separation is hard and we are sure it’s hard for them too,” she told the 150 students gathered. “We want to say thank you to our friends. We know they love us and we love them too.
“We are saying au revoir [good bye]. We are not going to forget them and you don’t forget us too. Bon voyage! [safe travels].”
Before the Howard students left, they visited the classroom one final time and presented the young scholars with hand-made crowns to honor them.
So when we arrived, we thought we would bring hope to Haiti. After a week of service, teaching and learning, we find that hope is here and that it resides in the Haitian people. Through their faith and our commitment, we can transform these hopes into dreams realized.
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