I still remember my favorite teacher. She was strong, confident, and a little quirky. She made me feel special, unique and intelligent. She had time for me. She made a difference in my life.
Besides our parents and close family, children spend much of their time at school, where teachers are some of the most powerful influences in their lives. Not just in academics but as leaders, confidants, guidance counselors and even conflict managers. I’m sure this holds true all over the world, and I have seen it for myself in our sister parish in Haiti.
I was able to sit down with one such teacher/principal in January. His name is Raguel Raymond and I have known him for seven years. He is a slight, elderly, graying man with a soft, kind voice. He has been teaching in our sister parish for about 20 years, in a two-room school building that doubles as the church. The last hurricane tore off part of the roof and damaged the interior wall, which then had to be removed. It is now essentially an “outdoor classroom.”
Raguel explained his difficulties in retaining teachers. When I last visited his school, in 2015, a young man of about 15 was teaching the lower grades. He had always attended our teacher training workshops but not this year. Raguel said he had asked for a raise so that he could travel to Port au Prince on the weekends to complete his high school education. Unfortunately, Raguel did not have the funds to facilitate this. The young man left the job and moved to Port au Prince. The chances of his returning to this village are very slim.
Upon further discussion I found out that Raguel is not from the countryside. He is from Port au Prince and travelled to our sister parish with Fr. Antonio and decided to stay on as a teacher. He has three brothers, a doctor, a lawyer and an engineer, who provide for him financially. He returns to Port au Prince on most weekends to be with his family. His brothers have made this possible for 20 years!
Raguel is one of the teachers who stand out at our workshops. He is always asking questions, providing ideas on how to use the techniques we teach, and asking where he can find supplies and learn more. He attends other workshops in Port au Prince and is always looking to improve his skills and mentor other teachers.
He knows he is getting old and will not be able to teach much longer. His biggest concern is to find teachers to stay and teach the children in his school, a real concern demonstrated by the departure of the 15-year-old teacher I mentioned earlier as well as another this past January who did not return after the holiday break.
This is where you all come in. Our mission in Haiti is EDUCATION – particularly helping improve teacher salaries. If we have teachers, the communities will have schools and so will benefit from an educated population. The children will have role models that make a difference in their lives. They will see teachers as persons to emulate and will want to become teachers themselves. And with adequate pay for their work, teachers won’t go on to other professions hoping to make a better living to provide for their families.
Renmen Bondye, Sèvi Lòt Moun, Fòm Disip
Love God, Serve Others, Form Disciples.