A fierce rain in Port-au-Prince
It’s the middle of the night and outside a fierce rain has whipped up in Port au Prince. It’s coming in thunderous waves, drumming across the roof of Save the Children’s office. It gives me a chill, although I’m warm, dry, and safe inside. I’m thinking how none of that is the case for many of the students and teachers I met at the Bazilo community school earlier today in the hard-hit neighborhood of Carrefour Feuille.
Right now, about 50 children and adults must be trying to sleep on the gravelly clearing up a steep hillside from the schoolhouse. They have lost their homes, and some their parents, and now they have only a few small tarps to cover them from this unwelcome storm.
Downhill below their camp, the earthquake-shaken school still stands, but nobody sleeps there or enters for classes. The Ministry of Education has not yet evaluated if the building is safe for use. ‘Next week’, said Haitian officials in a meeting our education staff attended today. Save the Children will provide one of the teams of expert inspectors to be sent to schools across the city.
I really hope the Bazilo school is deemed safe and the children can come inside from night rains and harsh daytime sun as they try so hard to learn. It was inspiring this morning to see half a dozen packed classes of attentive kids crammed into a modest clearing next to the school. Teachers led the smallest children in song and then lessons on counting. Just on the other side of a chalkboard propped up from the dirt, older children practiced multiplication out loud.
Nobody complained about anything. Occasionally some of the youngest children would cry for no easily apparent reason. But it wasn’t hard to imagine how many reasons there could be.
The school principal, an amazing woman named Marcelin Mireille, explained how Bazilo has become much more than a school. It’s a haven for children who have endured and lost much, but can find routine and nurturing support in the school’s safe orbit — even if there’s little protection from the rain.
Save the Children supported the Bazilo school before the earthquake through the “Rewrite the Future” campaign to improve education for children in conflict-affected areas. Now the school and students need help more than ever. Today we brought some learning materials, but it was soon obvious that the greatest immediate need is shelter — especially as the rainy season approaches. We’ll also provide training to the teachers on using new materials, supporting the children’s emotional and social needs, and on urgent issues of disaster risk reduction.