The University of Notre Dame’s New Effort to Promote Literacy in Haiti

haitireadsNearly half of the adult population in Haiti is illiterate. Half of all children in Haiti do not finish elementary school. Five percent of all youth attend high school and only 1 percent of all children in Haiti go on to attend college.

The Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana has begun a new “Haiti Reads” program at 52 Catholic schools in the island nation. Notre Dame is working on the project with the Haitian Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education and Catholic Relief Services. The project is supported by a $1 million grant from an anonymous donor.

Kate Schuenke-Lucien, association director of the Alliance for Catholic Education in Haiti, says that “literacy is the critical lever for improving the quality of education in Haiti. It is the foundation of all other learning. Students must ‘learn to read’ in their native language before they can ‘read to learn’ for the rest of their lives.” She notes that the root of the problem in teaching children to read is a poorly educated corps of teachers and a lack of literacy curriculum in Creole, the language of the vast majority of Haitians.

The literacy model uses supportive lesson plans for teachers and students, provides extensive teacher coaching and includes a rigorous randomized control trial evaluation conducted in partnership with Notre Dame’s Initiative for Global Development. This approach to improving literacy has proven successful in other developing countries and has produced significant gains in reading fluency and comprehension for students.

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  1. Instead of travelling approximately 1,800 miles to Haiti to lessen illiteracy. The University of Notre Dame should redirect their time, money, and material resources in decreasing the approximately 33 percent poverty rate in South Bend (e.g., for poor Whites) along with the 38 percent poverty in Gary, Indiana(e.g., for poor Blacks). More important, this is a pattern that many White Americans follow is to travel great distances to help those from the exploited Black countries(via the “Western Powers”) in lieu of Black and White Americans are in dire need.

    • The University of Notre Dame is actually doing both, and has a major commitment to strengthening educational quality in under-resourced Catholic schools all over the United States through its Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), most often serving low-income, minority students. Notre Dame’s connections to Haiti through its founding religious community, the Congregation of Holy Cross, which has been in Haiti for over 70 years, are the animating reason it has a long-term commitment to accompanying local Haitian leaders and institutions that are making a transformative difference in the lives of some of the world’s poorest children.

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