On the edge of the Haitian capital is a large parcel of land onto which the State University of Haiti, the country’s largest public institution, wants to move its schools and turn them into a unified campus. About 160 miles away, near the coastal city of Cap-Haitien, is a new complex built for the university by the Dominican Republic as a gift to its island neighbor, Andrew Downie reports in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
At the former, administrators hope the government will hand over $196-million to build and equip the complex. At the latter, they have no idea what to do with the new building scheduled to open on January 12, two years after a devastating earthquake.
The contrasting projects are indicative of Haiti’s faltering process of rebuilding. Some 87 percent of its biggest institutions of higher education were destroyed or rendered unusable by the earthquake.
But a shortage of cash means that few universities have been reconstructed. When there is money, it is often spent without planning or consultation. And foreign aid mostly goes to projects involving such things as curriculum development or student and teacher exchanges, not the bricks and mortar that universities need and want.
“Most of them are still in need of infrastructure,” says Bechir Lamine, Unesco’s representative in Haiti. “If you don’t have buildings, then you can’t have libraries.”
The State University of Haiti hopes to bring together its 11 schools, and open three more, on a large complex near its agronomy school. The land has been set aside, and workers are building a wall around the area to keep out squatters. They hope to soon evict subsistence farmers using the land to grow bananas, corn, sweet potatoes, and green beans.
But there is a question mark about the project’s viability. Jean Vernet Henry, the rector, says he needs $96-million to build the complex and an additional $100-million to equip and ready it. He has been asking the government for funds since June 2010, with no luck.
Although Mr. Henry is optimistic, few people believe the project will ever come to fruition.
“They have these big pie-in-the-sky plans, and in terms of real action, not a lot gets done,” says Josiane Hudicourt, a researcher at the Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty, an international organization in Haiti, supported by the Open Society Institute, that is focused on education. “There is no trust in the Haitian government for such large amounts of money.”
One project that did get done—without Haitian government money—is at Limonade, in the north of Haiti. The Dominican Republic built a university 22 kilometers from Cap-Haitien as a gift. But it did so without consulting anyone in Haiti. (Officials in the foreign and education ministries did not respond to repeated attempts by The Chronicle to contact them.)
Haitian officials were not involved in discussing details such as the size of classrooms, common areas, or green spaces. It has no dorms, no hotel nearby, and sits snug against the nearest highway.
And while officials of the state university expect to turn the complex into the institution’s northern base, they don’t know if there are enough academics in the area to teach, or if it will be able to attract them from the capital.
“If organized correctly, it will relieve pressure on Port-au-Prince and those going abroad,” says Jean Claude François, newly appointed under-secretary of higher education. “[But] the conditions in which this has been done are not clear. I don’t have any paperwork to define the terms or conditions by which the university will be run.”
For the original report go to http://chronicle.com/article/In-Haiti-a-Gleaming-Campus/130168/