Savaan Brule is a small community, located about nine miles east of Dessalines, in the Artibonite River Valley of Central Haiti (here is a map link). The community is accessible by foot, motorcycle, or four wheel drive truck most of the year. Because there no stores or industry, people walk 2-3 miles to the next village on market days (Wednesday or Saturday) to buy or sell. People living in Savon Brule support themselves primarily by subsistence farming and growing extra crops to sell at market.
Since 2007 the small church on the east edge of the community has run a school for students age three thru sixth grade. There are no government run schools in this region, so this is the first school in the area. These students range in age from three to eighteen, because students must pass a test each spring to move to the next grade in the fall. Passing the annual tests is difficult for several reasons. First, only about 20% of the students can afford curriculum so the rest must “look-on” at school or memorize what is said. Also, parents frequently need their children to help garden causing attendance to be inconsistent. Lastly, school is only four hours per day to enable teachers to attend high school in neighboring towns or to work in their gardens. Teachers must garden too, because they are not paid for their teaching.
Currently the school has 262 students in ten classes. The preschoolers and kindergarteners meet under a shed roof off of the back of the concrete block church. Grades one through four (6 classes) meet in the church and the fifth and sixth graders have school under a metal roof outside.
The school was started by Pastor Lahens in 2007 who loved the community but was saddened to see children who had no chance to learn. Because Savon Brule is so poor, neither he nor any of the parents had any money for a school. The first students met in the church and used books borrowed from and supplies given by the school, eight miles away, in Nan Wo. The Nan Wo School is supported by Hope in Haiti through child sponsorship.
Pastor Lahens and Allias Cantonnette, school superintendent, are working hard to educate the parents about the value of education and why their students should work hard, both in the field and in the classroom. Both men dream of a model school with lights in the classroom and teachers who have a love for education that they instill in their students. This last year 25% of the students completing sixth grade elected to continue their education in Nan Wo, where there is a “middle school.” They also dream of teachers making a living wage (about $75 per month), receiving ongoing training and improving life in their cherished village of Savaan Brule.