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Most pupils like to get a day off school, but for Haiti’s children it’s not just a day but months. January’s earthquake destroyed 90 percent of schools, leaving children without an education
“The schools must be reopened, children have to go back to their studies as quickly as possible,” says Fr Zucchi, head of four schools run by Salesians in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest areas of Port-au-Prince. “Children should be coming back into class at least in our schools at the beginning of April, once Easter is over.”
Fr Zucchi is already planning the rebuilding of his schools. The list of things to do is long: clear away all the debris, assess the buildings which are still standing, buy materials for rebuilding and also teaching and put up temporary classrooms while the work is being done.
Caritas is financing and supporting the rebuilding of the schools, just as it has done in other disasters such as the Aquila earthquake in Italy last year.
Just over 50 percent of Haitians are literate. Only half of Haiti’s children go to primary school. The situation is even worse in Cité Soleil.
“We are in one of the most deprived areas of the capital and the area which offers the least possibility of education,” says Fr Zucchi. “But things have been changing over the past few years as parents began to understand the importance of an education for their children’s future.”
The community in Cité Soleil has been observing the progress of Fr Zucchi’s schools. Through a cash-for-work project promoted by Caritas and the Salesians they have also been able to take part in the rebuilding of the schools.
“In Cité Soleil, people didn’t have much even before the earthquake. Now they have nothing. The cash-for-work is really important here,” says a teacher who is helping Fr Zucchi.
Not only schools, but also universities and other educational institutions were destroyed in the earthquake, leaving students with no way to continue their studies. That resulting damage to children’s future and possibilities and to Haiti’s society and economy will not be known for years to come.
Ten-year-old Wikly, who’s been playing football near Fr Zucchi already understands that a long holiday from school isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“We’ve been getting a bit bored for a month now,” he says. “Without school, you’re nothing.”