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Haiti: Newsline

UNESCO connects Haitian and French children through books

©UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1316/Marta Ramoneda
Students peer beneath the blackboard separating two classrooms in a tent classroom at Saint Joseph School in Port-au-Prince, the capital.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 06 July 2010. On January 12, 2010, the earthquake that struck Haiti took the lives of 300, 000 people and destroyed most of the administrative and educational infrastructure of the country. Children lost their homes, their schools and their educational system, putting their future on hold.

As part of a larger response to help recovery in Haiti, UNESCO recently launched an initiative called “Un livre pour un enfant d’Haiti” (“A Book for a Child in Haiti”).  The Organization collected French-language books from staff, friends and pupils in UNESCO Associated Schools for distribution to children in Haiti’s camps for internally displaced persons. The French publisher Editions Lafon also contributed to the collection. 

The first shipment of 800 books arrived in Port-au-Prince early last week. These novels, fairy tales, comic strips and storybooks offer Haitian children from three to 17 a welcome distraction from the harsh reality of their immediate surroundings and an opportunity to read despite the destruction of many libraries. UNESCO has prompted parents and neighbourhood organizations to encourage the children to read and write so they do not lose what they have already learnt.  If they have not practised reading and writing, younger children especially tend to forget much of what they have learned, making it hard to pick up where they left off.  

Come September 2010, when the French school year begins, Parisian students will be asked to donate more books for the project. Forthcoming shipments include contributions from a wider base including other French publishing houses. The operation will then extend to providing educational content to child-friendly spaces in the IDP camps and to school libraries.  

With this endeavour UNESCO hopes to stimulate informal learning in the IDP camps, and also to add more personal touch to an exchange between Haitian and French children – who are encouraged to write a personal message of solidarity on the title page of the book for the Haitian children who read it - a message that shall go far given the inter-library loan system run by volunteers who travel between the camps. In the long run, the initiative “Un livre pour un enfant d’Haiti” is hoped to facilitate  the establishment of further exchanges between schools in Haiti and France.


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