Port-au-Prince – At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, UNICEF and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are renewing their commitment to support the country’s efforts in the field of education.
UNICEF has started the distribution of school kits to 750,000 children and 15,000 teachers in the country. In total, 2,500 schools will be supported by UNICEF, which is injecting close to $10 million in this operation.
This year, the National School Meals Program (PNCS), WFP and their partners will provide hot meals daily to 1,9 million children, of which 1.1 million are provided by WFP. "School canteens are a simple and efficient way to ensure that children receive at least one nutritious meal everyday and to encourage them to attend school," said Patricia Dominique J. Martin, the Coordinator of the PNCS.
UNICEF promotes the right to education for all children in Haiti in accordance to the 1987 constitution and the Children’s Right Convention ratified by Haiti in 1994. “Education is fundamental for the development of children, families, communities and for the future of Haiti’s reconstruction,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Haiti, Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans. To reach this objective, UNICEF is working jointly with the political instances of the country to build an education system that is free and universal.
The earthquake has increased challenges in the field of education, but on 4 April 2010, UNICEF and WFP were working side by side with the government to restart the school year. The following October, the Ministry of Education and the National School Meals Program could again rely on the agencies’ support to make the first full school year following the earthquake a success. UNICEF has built 200 schools throughout the country, and has prioritized work on buildings destroyed or damaged by the earthquake or communities without proper infrastructure in the most vulnerable areas. WFP has doubled the number of children enrolled in its school meals program to better answer the needs of schoolchildren and their families in the aftermath of the earthquake.
"A year and a half after the earthquake, a national survey has revealed that close to half of the Haitian population is struggling with food insecurity", said Myrta Kaulard, WFP Representative in Haiti. "The school meals program is an essential tool to solve this problem while helping schoolchildren learn better and grow up healthy", she added.
Increasing the quantity of food produced in Haiti and used in the school meals program has been a priority for WFP in Haiti since 2008. "By establishing solid links between agriculture and the school meals program, the National School Meals Program, the Ministry of Agriculture and WFP contribute to the development of the agricultural sector and help local economies grow. Entire families and communities benefit", said Kaulard.
UNICEF and WFP provide services to the most vulnerable children in the country’s public, communal and parochial schools. "We have a moral duty to help the country’s children who were not enrolled in school, especially the poorest and most vulnerable," said Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.
To allow children living in remote areas to have access to education, UNICEF has initiated discussions with authorities to support the opening of schools in sub communal sections that have no public schools or no schools at all. UNICEF is well aware that access to education also includes developing a well-managed school network that offers quality teaching to students. The agency is supporting teacher’s training and the strengthening of basic academic teachings especially during the first years of schooling.
Education is President Michel Martelly’s highest priority. UNICEF and WFP are committed to help authorities achieve the objective of ensuring that all Haitian children receive a good quality, free education and a daily meal in school. To develop a country, it is essential to educate its children.