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Lessons for Haitians from Manitoba

Online programs reach hundreds of kids

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With nearly three-quarters of high school students failing national exams and more than 80 per cent of their teachers without adequate training, Haiti’s education system is in trouble, says a Winnipegger who’s using technology to teach the poorest country in the hemisphere.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/03/2015 (2824 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With nearly three-quarters of high school students failing national exams and more than 80 per cent of their teachers without adequate training, Haiti’s education system is in trouble, says a Winnipegger who’s using technology to teach the poorest country in the hemisphere.

Haitian School without Borders is the online creation of Bathelemy Bolivar, a Haitian who’s finishing his doctorate in science and math education at the University of Manitoba.

“We have done so much without any money,” said Bolivar, who came to Winnipeg in 2002. The online programming is in French and tailored to the Haitian culture and national school curriculum.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Barthélemy Bolivar, a Haitian who is finishing his doctorate in science and math education at the U of M, has developed online education modules for high school students in his homeland.

So far, 800 students at a school for girls in Cap-Haïtien have accessed it, he said.

The programming is meant to enhance education for students in overcrowded classrooms and underfunded schools, said Bolivar. The doctoral candidate is also a poet whose Mots de Terre/Voice of the Earth: Haiti was published after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 Haitians.

Bolivar said he was lucky to receive a decent education at a private school in Haiti thanks to his dad working in the Bahamas and sending money home.

Most Haitians don’t have access to schools with up-to-date course materials and teachers, said Bolivar.

He’s worked with universities in Ontario and France and colleagues in Manitoba to develop 10 online modules for Haitian students in English, chemistry, biology, French literature, French language, math and sciences. The goal is to have 35 classes as well as training for teachers, he said.

This summer, they plan to hold an online seminar live-streamed to teachers in Haiti.

“We need to get teachers trained, get them the right materials and get them professionally developed,” he said.

The tough part is raising money for a school that’s not made of bricks and mortar.

“The fact that the school is online, people don’t understand,” said Bolivar. He said there’s more bang for the buck because so many students across Haiti who have access to a smartphone can benefit.

“With this, we can have a small set of experts that everyone can get access to. We have people with PhDs working on the secondary-school Haitian curriculum. Kids who don’t have any money are served by some of the best in world.”

For now, he’s hoping to get some help building and supporting the technological infrastructure — the servers and platforms they’re using to offer the courses to Haitian teachers and students. He said donations can be made through a registered Canadian charity called Bridges of Hope. “It’s a big deal.”

For information see haitianschoolwithoutborders.org.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

History

Updated on Monday, March 16, 2015 3:10 PM CDT: Corrects spelling of Bathelemy Bolivar.

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