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+++ 06.04.2018 +++

Waldorf Education in Haiti: “When I grow up, I’ll come back to your school”

For more than ten years now, there has been a little Waldorf school in Torbeck in the poorest region of Haiti, at the southernmost tip of the island. During the 2016 hurricane, the École du Village was severely damaged, but soon was able to resume classes after the Friends of Waldorf Education had launched an urgent call for donations. In her annual report for the Friends of Waldorf Educatio,n Founder Myriam Silien looks back on the development of the school and of Waldorf education in Haiti. She writes about children who love going to her school and about some setbacks she experiences when confronted with the lack of understanding some parents show towards an education that succeeds without corporal punishment and heavy school books. She also reports on a workshop she gave for teachers interested in Waldorf education and on encounters that gave her hope.

2017 came to a good end for our village school, with a nice Christmas party, very simple, but warm and illuminated by the specific Haitian joie de vivre. During the holidays, I had the great pleasure to give a series of classes on Waldorf education. Since September, a group of teachers and parents are thinking about founding a school that works differently than the current state schools and they had asked me to give some classes. Several other interested people joined the workshop, and we had a couple of wonderful days with many pleasant surprises. There were very nice, unexpected encounters with people who already had some ideas on their mind. It was nice to exchange views on this topic, because we all rarely have the opportunity to do so. We played, sang, painted, talked – and each day ended with joy and warmth and with the sounds of the instruments of the musicians among us. These few days gave me, and all those who were lucky to be there, such a joy and once again the certainty that we are in the right place and that this school, which we aim to let grow for Haiti and the whole world, reflects a true need if not a necessity.
But then again, even if the beaming eyes of our students prove to us every day that we are doing the right thing, the attitude of some parents who do not understand our method is an enormous challenge. Often, we have to deal with parents who do not take the time to read the delight and the abundance in their children’s eyes and who then send their children to a different school just because they do not carry twenty books on their backs at our school. This is what also happened to Fissia, a former student, who was taken out of our school by her mother, because of what the people are saying. On several occasions Fissia told us how sad she was about not attending the École du Village anymore and that she gets beaten at her new school. The same is true for little Ronaldens, who told me: “Mimi, when you walked by my house the other day, I wanted to call your name but my mom didn’t let me”. Ever since, he comes by every day, gives me a hug, and says: “You know, I don’t like my new school at all, they beat me every day, and send me back home, because I did not take my books along or because daddy didn’t pay. When I grow up, I’ll come back to your school and mom and dad can’t say anything about it”.

These experiences make the human connections we established at the workshop so important. In this vein, Ferna, our 8th grade teacher, said to me the other night: “I am so glad to discover such people in our country, people who are open-minded and who have the same goal we do”. From now on, even if the Torbeck people do not understand us, we know that we are right and we will gain our strength from the connection to and the exchange with these people.

Deneige, a former preschool teacher who was trained at our school, had to leave us a couple of years ago and is now in Port-au-Prince. She applied for a position as preschool teacher to work at a small school in a popular district. When the principal saw how she worked, he asked her to become curriculum leader and to teach the colleagues her methods. So Deneige returned to our school, took part in my workshop, and left us with some material; but she would like to take part in the workshops more often, bringing her colleagues along. She cannot do so, however, since the financial means are lacking.

All this gives me wings and strength, because I tell myself that the tree we have planted in Haiti is really beginning to be in fruit, and from the fruit other trees can grow. And, no doubt, one day a vast forest will grow; where life will be revived, where birds can make their nests, where fresh spring water gushes from the grounds, and it will be good to take a rest.

I thank you for following this dream and for carrying it with us in your heart – a dream that has become bigger. And I for one, look forward to seeing the children and their smile each and every day, to meeting the teachers and all the staff together, to living together the big dream of a very beautiful year 2018.

There are also the volunteers of the Friends of Waldorf Education among us. Some of them help with building new premises for the classrooms, while others support the teachers.

Many thanks to the Friends of Waldorf Education and to the donors without whom nothing would be possible.

With warm regards, Myriam Silien

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