On the Ground in Haiti

from the World ORT blog ‘Live” from Haiti:

Daily, Igal Guez and Daniel Kahn are discovering the extent of the earthquake’s damages. Nobody is able to estimate the exact number of victims: the official number is 230,000 people dead. The unconfirmed number is estimated at half a million. The authorities are active in the destruction and the cleaning of the remains of the public buildings. Private houses are not their concern. Yet, there are thousands of corpses buried under what once were people’s homes. Another unknown figure is the number of people who fled from the city after the earthquake: some cite a number of 800,000 migrates, others say one million. It will take years to determine the real magnitude of the disaster.

Walking through the streets, you meet a multitude of different populations: tens of thousands of poor people, either staying under their tents or walking around and standing politely in line for water at a street tap. Policemen can be seen standing on every corner. Rich locals living as they always did – coffee shops are packed with wealthy local residents and foreigners – they serve the same good food as before but at a price more expensive than in Tokyo or London. Thousands of NGO representatives are roaming through refugee sites. Soldiers and UN volunteers are helping people to clean up and fix their houses.

As educators, Guez and Kahn, discover a surrealistic world. Every third building was a school ranging from kindergarten to a vocational school. Nowhere in the world can you see so many schools. In a city where from every 1,000 children in first grade only 12 will graduate, you find 176 (!!!) universities. This is a country where education is an easy business, but only 25 percent of the teachers are licensed, and 90 percent of the children study in private schools. As one of the locals said: “Haiti is a land, not a nation.”

From the World ORT blog ‘Live” from Haiti; reprinted with permission.