A protest movement demanding the resignation of president Jovenel Moïse, elected in February 2017, has shaken Haiti for several months. The demonstrations were exacerbated at the end of August because of a petrol shortage, paralysing daily activity across the country. One of the consequences: schools are shut.

The start of a new school year was scheduled for September 9, but the vast majority of state and religious schools have now been closed for around a month and a half. Some stayed open for a short while, before being forced to close after pressure from protesters.

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General, said at the beginning of October that around two million children and young people, out of a population of around 11 million, had been left without any access to education.

At the moment, only a handful of schools are open.

Caption: "An atmosphere of frustration and anger."
 
Caption: "Seventh week of protests in Haiti. The people are demanding the resignation of President Jovenel [Moïse]. Everywhere people are revolting against corruption, austerity and the political elite."
 

“I’ve been at home for two months. I feel really bad”

14-year-old Sanon is a student at the ‘Foyer des enfants de Dieu’ secondary school in Pétion-Ville, a suburb in the south of the capital Port-au-Prince, where there has been a lot of unrest. He told us that he is sad not to have been able to go back to school in September.
 
The protests in the streets near me have caused a lot of damage, and the protesters are stopping schools from opening, so I can’t go to school and I’ve been at home for two months. I feel really bad about it, I could’ve learned a lot of things.

When I’m not at school, I read books, I look things up… My dad can’t work either. We’re all at home.

'La Joconde', a mixed school in Port-au-Prince, closed. (Photo: Sanon).
 

“Schools that try to stay open come under fire”

Edine Célestin is a photojournalist and mother of two girls, one in primary school and one in nursery, in Port-au-Prince. She told us she feels helpless.
 
It’s been seven weeks that the schools have been closed. The ones which want to stay open whatever the cost come under fire. We have made sacrifices to pay for the girls’ education, to prepare for the new school year, and they’re still at home. We’ll never get this money back. The state has lost all control: the streets aren’t safe, protesters have put up barricades at each crossroads.

A nursery school in Pétion-Ville forced to close its doors in response to pressure from protesters. (Photo: Edine Célestin.)
 

“Teachers have enormous difficulty getting to work”

Harold Durand is a doctor and the head of ‘Les Parents réunis’ school in Cap-Haïtien, in the north of the country. He told us why his establishment has closed its doors.
 
There’s no petrol and it’s hard to get around, so teachers have enormous difficulty getting to work. We can’t work, so we’re waiting for things to return to normal. There doesn’t seem to be a way out of the crisis; the whole school year might have to be ruled out.

Students, teachers and schools are under threat: protesters have even been throwing objects at the schools which have dared to open.

My school has more than 100 pupils, and around 20 teachers. We have to stay active and we have to keep paying our staff. We are forced to accept the loss because we don’t know how long the situation will last.

People are angry not just at President Moïse, but also at companies he used to run before he entered politics, which they accuse of misusing funds. The Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) estimated earlier this month that at least 17 people had been killed since the end of August because of violent demonstrations.


Article by Hermann Boko (@HermannBoko).