I love learning and I want to instill that in my students. But they are usually too hungry (grangou) to concentrate and learn. My twenty sixth grade students share an open metal-roofed shed with a fifth grade class about the same size. Much of the chatter I hear in our shed is about wanting to eat something, anything. If I had any extra food, I would feed them so they could retain what they are learning.
My name is Allias Cantonnette. I am the sixth grade teacher and superintendent of the preschool thru sixth grade school in Savon Brule. Our 260 students range in age from 3 to 17. Every student over 5 years of age starts in first grade and must pass a test each spring to move to the next grade. Completing each grade is difficult for many of our students because we have few sets of curriculum and attendance is inconsistent. Parents of many of our students did not go to school as children and need their children to work with them in the fields. One of my goals is to educate these parents about the value of education.
Things change slowly in Savon Brule. We are close knit community of small scale farmers working to feed their families. All of the teachers at my school support themselves and their families by growing crops for markets in the cities or by selling at the local markets. They do this because none of us are paid for our work at the school. Several of our staff, including myself, have been offered work elsewhere; but choose to stay due to love for community and hoping to make our school a “strong light for our region.”
For me, this means that I spend my early morning and evening hours farming, mid- morning teaching and afternoons one hour away studying for my eleventh grade exams. To get there I walk until I can thumb a ride on a “moto (motorbike).” My wife works hard with our three children while running a small store in our house for the community.
Telcine St. John
My three children and I live with my mom. My dad is dead; my husband left to find a better life. So, at 28 years, I help take care of my mom and her garden and she cares for my kids so I can teach first grade and continue my schooling.
We live near the Savon Brule School; in the same tiny house where I grew up. Two of my children go to the school and are able to start learning at a much younger age than I was when I started school. My mom, who never went to school, is constantly surprised by their questions and curiosity. I am so thankful that they have this opportunity.
Mom, my older two children and I work in the garden so we can have food and sometimes have something to sell. Other than our small garden, we have no way of supporting ourselves, because I am not paid to teach.
I love my teaching and learning. My twenty-two first graders are eager to learn, in as many ways as I can figure out to teach them. One of my favorite ways is through music and dance. The students and put most ideas and concepts into songs and then we move to the beat as we sing them. We often have to do this outside because there are four other classes in the room where we meet, and we can get a little too loud.
When the first graders and my older two children go home, about noon, I walk the seven miles into Nan Wo, where I am working on completing the ninth grade. Along with improving my reading and writing, I am learning a lot about teaching manners, behavior and French, which is spoken in all Hatian schools. But not in many homes. There are so many things that I want to learn so I can become a better teacher and help Savon Brule become a better village. I hope teachers from other towns will come and give us training, encouragement and supplies.
Olteus Jamide and Desinette Quantonette
My wife and I both work at the school in Savon Brule. She is 20 years old and teaches preschool 2 (mostly four year olds) and sells snack and lunch foods there. I am 28 years old and teach third grade as I have for the past 10 years. We have a new baby boy that my mother-in-law cares for when we are teaching or gardening. The students call me Monsieur Jamide and her Madame Jamide or Madame Olteus.
In preschool Madame Jamide’s has the students start learning using the things they can see and touch, like rocks and bushes. They have no books, crayons, paper, toys, balls or blocks for the children to play with. So mostly they sing, dance and recite sentence. They count and group rocks to begin learning math. Her students speak Creole in school, but she starts them on a little bit of French because they will learn only in French starting in the first grade. These four year olds enjoy playing guessing games and show and tell. She hopes that someday her class will have paper to write and draw and books to read along with balls to kick and blocks to build. She does try not to complain because the most important thing to her is that her students learn to love learning.
My class is a bit more challenging than hers because, by the third grade, students should be using curriculum, pencils and paper to learn. Very few of my students have these because their parents cannot afford them. Sometimes the school in Nan Wo shares some of theirs with us, but this is nowhere near enough. If I would ever get paid for teaching, I would try to buy some of these things for my class. As it is now, the only money I get is from growing crops to sell. This is difficult because the hours are long and for the past three years we have not had enough rain to grow many crops.
Sometimes I think that I should move to some place where the teachers are paid or the soil is better. But my family is here and I love this community. We are all struggling to survive; so help each other as much as we can. I think this is why all of us teachers keep teaching and dreaming about having a quality school where our children and all students can learn well.
An Empty Sack Cannot Stand (Estimable Phanas)
I have been told that, in other parts of the world, roosters do not crow until the sun starts to rise. Not so in my part of Haiti, where the “cocks” wake me each morning at about 3:00am. When they call, I throw on my pants and join them in the garden for several hours of digging, planting and harvesting.
My name is Estimable Phanas. I am 36 years old with a wife and two children. We depend on my work in the fields each morning and evening to feed and clothe us
I also teach second grade at the school in my village of Savon Brule, each morning from 8:00 to noon. I love my 22 eager students. But this teaching is incredibly difficult because of money and lack of resources. My fellow teachers and I have not been paid for our work for over four years. This means that I must put more of my time and effort into my “gardens” than into the students. My dream is to be able to focus on my students and only grow a small home garden for my family. In class we try to have the four students who have books share with the other eighteen
Each afternoon, before returning to the fields, I prepare for the next day and continue my own studies. I walk to the next town to work on completing the 10th grade so I can become a better teacher.