In August 2011, ODES and the SCEH Executive Committee approved an application from three directors of schools in Deschapelles serving young children for an Early Education Project. While it is still in the early planning stages, the mission of the Project will be to enhance existing curricula, introduce hands-on manipulative educational materials important to cognitive development especially in very young children, provide the necessary equipment and materials, and learn from one another regarding the teaching of young children.
Plans are being made for a newly formed committee comprised of several American educators with past experience teaching in Haiti and who speak either French or Kreyol and teachers from southeastern Connecticut, all well versed in the use of manipulative hands-on child centered materials, to develop the program. All materials will be culturally appropriate. It is anticipated that the Project will initially consist of a week of workshops with the three directors who wrote the proposal, all their teachers who instruct children from ages 3-6, and the SCEH teacher trainers. After the Haitian teachers have had enough time to use the new skills in their classrooms and are comfortable with their knowledge, they, in turn, will hold workshops with other interested schools in the area, supported by some of the same US teacher trainers.
Schools in Haiti, especially in the rural areas, are spare. The quality of the school varies widely. Learning is traditionally by rote. Papers and pencils are scarce, The younger school children often have child-sized tables and chairs, but the older ones have wooden bench/desk arrangements which will hold often one more child than you thought would be possible. Each classroom for older children has a blackboard. They have few materials, including books for reading pleasure. Their school yards, if there is any space at all, is often just hard dirt and only rarely is there playground equipment.
Sister Cities Essex Haiti’s Early Education Project is a beginning step to address some of these issues by collaborating with educators in the Deschapelles area to introduce cognitive-based teaching methods and materials.
This program has been embraced by Dr. Ruth Levy, Superintendent of Regional School District 4, and the administrators of Essex, Deep River and Chester Elementary Schools, John Winthrop Junior High School, and Valley
Regional High School.