A fresh start to the same school year

In a normal year, this would have been the second week of a new school year. But 2020 has been anything but normal.

Today Grace Emmanuel School students will complete their third week of the final trimester of last school year, having lost 10 weeks of school to political unrest in the fall and 5 months to the coronavirus pandemic this spring and summer.

Glad to be back at school

School officially reopened on August 17, as directed by the government of Haiti.

“It was a great day when they returned,” said Maudeline Saint Fleur, GES secretary. “We had made lots of beautiful preparations for that day, like distributing masks, improving the hand washing stations, adding rugs for drying feet, etc. We could see how happy every heart was for all that we had done.”

“Due to all the difficulties this school year, the students have suffered a lot,” said Maudeline, who has worked at the school since 2008.

“School is not only a place where they are educated, but a space where they feel good and find lots of support. We wanted to reopen especially because we had heard over and over at home visits how much the students missed school.”

Racing to the finish line

Students have just a few more weeks to learn this trimester’s material before their final exams at the beginning of October. The National Ministry of Education has put forth special guidelines to determine whether a student passes this year, taking into account all of the disruptions. Andris, GES school director, says all students up to 3rd grade will pass automatically. Most other students will also pass, provided they are showing up to school and making an effort.

Exams will wrap up before October 12, when GES will once again be a testing site for the government to administer its 9th grade exams to hundreds of students from area schools.

Grace Emmanuel School’s Class of 2020 will graduate on October 16, and the school year will officially close on October 20. This gives school staff a few weeks to do enrollment for the next school year, gather supplies, replace textbooks, and complete every other task needed to transition to the next school year.

The 2020-2021 school year will start on November 9, Lord willing.

Unresolved obstacles

None of the issues that contributed to the closures this year have been resolved, but for now GES staff is just thankful for every day they have with the students.

COVID-19 is still present in Haiti, but very few people in the villages around the school have been sick or even know anyone who has been sick.

Political tensions remain high in the country, which has been without a parliament since January because of continuously postponed elections. In the last few months, political unrest has been mostly confined to Port-au-Prince.

“We will just take each day as it comes,” said Maudeline. “We praise God that the kids can be back at school, learning, eating lunches, and being with their friends. Thank you to everyone who helps put a smile on the faces of these students.”

Kristi Bucher has served as Communications Manager for Jesus in Haiti Ministries since 2014. She currently lives in Minnesota with her husband, Nathan, and two kids. Kristi and Nathan lived in Haiti from 2012–2014.