A Telecom class at the new school: 59 men and women have enrolled in the two-year course to become licensed technicians in telecoms and networks for private companies in the telecommunications and financial sectors.

Since the beginning of Haiti’s school year two weeks ago, World ORT-NPH’s vocational school – the only school of its kind in the capital, Port-au-Prince – has been bustling with 175 students, more than twice the enrollment from its preliminary session in April.

The students are divided among four streams: Paramedics and Telecom for those who have graduated high school and Electricity and Plumbing for those who are post-Grade 9 – learning essential skills which will provide graduates solid careers as they contribute to the country’s reconstruction.

“There is still some work to be done but we stand on solid foundations which permit us to be confident looking ahead,” said Daniel Kahn, the Director of World ORT’s International Cooperation office in Geneva.

“Our goal is to train 300 students a year. We offer them what is a new vocational model to Haiti but one which is used to tremendous effect by the ORT vocational school in Rue de Rosier, Paris: ‘alternance’, in which students alternate weekly between the classroom and the workplace. The workplace experience not only enhances the training, it helps graduates to find a job.”

Funded by the Mexican Alliance for Haiti and the JDC, the school is part of a 4.5 acre campus belonging to World ORT’s local partner, Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH), and has four large, high quality aluminium prefab buildings: a multi-level general studies and administration building with 10 classrooms, two buildings with four big workshops each and a 300-person capacity auditorium.

The average age of the students is 25, which is older than expected; most come from poor families, many of them referred to the school via NPH institutions, such as orphanages.

The new school is World ORT’s second project in Haiti; its program to train construction workers in earthquake-resistant building techniques has closed after benefiting more than double the original goal of 700 graduates, thanks to new partnerships with UNESCO, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Fondation de France.