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Cycle 6 (2017 Deadline)

Students with disabilities and pedagogical practices of teachers in the schools in three regions of Haiti

PI: Rochambeau Lainy,, The GIECLAT (Groupe d’Initiative pour l’Etude de la Cognition, du Langage, de l’Apprentissage et des Troubles)
U.S. Partner: Nathalis Wamba, Queens College
Project Dates: April 2018 - March 2021

Medium Article on Project - March 2021

Project Overview:

This project will involve collection and analysis of data on students with disabilities and the pedagogical practices of their teachers in areas of Haiti devastated by Hurricane Matthew on October 3, 2016. The Grand Anse, Nippes, and Southern areas of Haiti suffered massive destruction of all infrastructures, including housing, health, transportation, and education; many people in these areas of Haiti had probably already been devastated by the severe earthquake in January 2010. While there are ongoing efforts to respond to basic needs of survivors, less than two percent of humanitarian aid efforts go to education. Of the humanitarian aid for education, very little is allocated for children with disabilities. In post-earthquake and hurricane reality, meeting basic life needs is difficult for everyone (with or without disabilities) in the best of circumstances. The Haitian Ministry of Education has begun to address the educational needs of those with disabilities, but demographic summaries suggest that less four percent of children with disabilities are registered in school. It is reasonable to expect (but we don’t know) that today the number is even smaller and that children with disabilities are receiving very little education. Given this large area of need, Dr. Lainy and his colleagues will focus their project on expanding known data about youth with disabilities in Haiti. The objectives of this project are to (1) estimate the number of students with disabilities in three departments of Haiti, (2) survey the needs of students with disabilities in these departments, (3) determine services received by these students, and (4) describe the educational context for these students, including resources and practices of teachers and schools.

Since the devastating earthquakes in 2010, Haiti has received $4.2 billion from the U.S. Government to help transition from disaster relief to a long-term development plan. This project will support these goals by building an information infrastructure about the status and needs of those with disabilities in Haiti, many of whom were disabled directly by the disaster events. Expected specific results and outcomes of the project include:

1. Providing donors and stakeholders (e.g., USAID/Haiti, the Ministry of National Education, NGOs, etc.) with credible and reliable data to guide their actions to increase access to educational activities to youth with disabilities in Haiti
2. A description of the causes, symptoms, and impacts of mental and/or motor disabilities among school students in Grand Anse, Nippes, and Southern areas of Haiti
3. A description of the limitations of the pedagogy used and the weakness of the available infrastructures
4. Increased awareness among teachers, principals, parents, and local authorities regarding the impacts of disabilities
5. A set of resources and way forward to assist students with disabilities
6. A summary description and analysis of the psychological impacts of disabilities on students

Overall Summary of Activities

This project was primarily designed to conduct qualitative research, although quantitative approaches were often explored for the purpose of the circumstances. Many adaptations and adjustments were made as benefited the initial objectives. For instance, the integration of students from the Université Publique de la Grand'Anse (UPGA) into the research program was a positive experience, although this was not foreseen in the project document. While this integration increased the workload of the project team, it produced very interesting results for the direct beneficiaries (the students and the UPGA) and the project team members. Additionally, besides the introduction of internships in Inclusive Education for two UPGA classes, the team increased the number of schools involved in the project. Thirteen communes and two localities, Léon and Fonds-Cochon, were selected as research sites in addition to the five communes of the South and the four communes of Nippes. The team also saw the scientific popularization of the research theme at the universities, particularly its Faculty of Education where the field of inclusive education was completely absent in the curriculum of the said faculty. These actions made it possible to meet the challenges that exist in the communes and localities of the Grand Sud. In the schools visited and observed, the situation of learners with disabilities and the pedagogical practices of teachers were not reassuring.

Schools were sampled in urban and non-urban areas. Sixty schools were identified in the fifteen zones of Grand'Anse, twelve schools in the South and ten schools in Nippes. This study made it possible to list all the learning difficulties among the students and those related to the capacity of most teachers or class leaders to properly transmit knowledge. School governance does not facilitate the possibility of doing much in terms of efficiency, which translated into this research becoming the standard for approaching cases of children with disabilities. The major impacts that justify the expansion of the approach adopted in the project are visible. The strong points were, among others, the consideration of schools often left out of the "public education policy", the involvement of the university structure in the research and the understanding of the "student with disability" theme.

The teaching and administrative staff clearly showed interest in the theme of this research by responding to the requests of the associated researchers and supporting institutions. The discussions and interviews that the team had with them on the need to promote inclusion in schools were welcomed as useful support. This led to a shift in their approaches to teach since before they had a narrow conception of the phenomenon of disability and impairment.

The teachers learned that disabilities are not only visual, auditory, and motor disabilities, but everything that could prevent a student from living and exercising freely any activity. The knowledge acquired raised the debate that the transmission of knowledge to students will have to be done differently in order to take immediate charge of cases identified as "disability." The issue of inclusive education is now present in the school panorama of these schools.

The illustrative documents about students' disabilities also finally led teachers and principals to reshape their thinking in order to deal differently with students with psycho-traumatic disorders. Euphemisms such as "elèv la sòt", "elèv la nil", "kote sa w pa ka konprann nan enbesil, idyo", etc. began to be seen as vulgar and not compatible in a school learning environment. These actors understood that these stereotypes deserve to be addressed so that children can achieve better results. These positive consequences are also seen only on the UPGA side where teachers, coaches, students and administrators have supported the approach and changed their discourse.

On this basis, an acceptable public service is emerging at UPGA. Two other aspects are being implemented as an extension. These are the training of teachers and the establishment of the Master of Inclusive Education at the UPGA. The project has secured additional grants to continue and expand the work of this project.

The results obtained are considered major by the echo they provoke among direct beneficiaries and indirect beneficiaries. Among them are: ten popularization articles published (2018-2019) on the website of Haitian and Guadeloupean media such as Loop Haiti, Radio Caraïbes, Le National, Montray Kreyol; eleven (11) scientific articles published, in 2020, by the Canadian publisher, Science et bien commun, in a collective work entitled Le handicap à l'école Haïti; eight (8) articles of high scientific level, each having 25 pages, which will be published by the French publisher Dunod.

The first book, which serves as a preliminary scientific output of this research, presents school disability as an effect caused by student deficiencies and socio-economic representations and situations surrounding the overall functioning of schools. The texts are based on observations of discomfort among teachers, students and school administrators.

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