Our second full day in the Central Plateau was our opportunity to visit the EcoVillage school and see the progress that has been made. The first thing we noticed was the new gate and fence that surrounds the school.
Upon entering the school yard, we see the 2 new classrooms and a storeroom for the kitchen. We hear sounds of students reciting their lessons and so we quietly make our way to the school director's office making an effort not to be a disturbance.
The students are in classes from 8am-10am, and this is a good time to interview the school director, Romain Exil. We learn that the school has 172 students enrolled in grades PreK - 6th grade. The enrollment breaks down like this:
- PreK & Kindergarten - 33 students
- 1st grade - 34students
- 2nd grade - 29 students
- 3rd grade - 23 students
- 4th grade - 30 students
- 5th grade - 15 students
- 6th grade - 8 students
The two new classrooms are being used for the 5th and 6th grades.
We talked about the new video system being installed. MPP has partnered with an organization which provides instructional video systems to public schools. The organization providing the system has certain requirements, including security, which motivated the construction of the fence around the school yard. We saw the beginnings of installation of the system which will be run off solar power.
Romain was excited to hear about the book project going on now at our churches in Atlanta. He asked that the books be printed in the US and transported to the school if there is a way to do that without high shipping costs. He would like books in both Kreyol and French side-by-side, primarily for beginning readers.
We discussed the likelihood of 'nationalizing' the school, which means the government will pay the teachers' salaries and possibly other costs. The director told us that the government has provided some furniture to the school and has conducted on-site inspections. The director has worked with MPP to create a dossier for the staff and school which will be submitted to the government. He admits that nationalization is a political process but is hopeful that they can make it happen.
We presented Romain with a framed photo of the students in front of the school taken by David Diener during our April 2017 trip. He immediately sought out a spot on his office wall to proudly display the photo. We also delivered colored paper donated by Good Shepherd which was greatly appreciated.
The students break for lunch from 10am - 10:30am eating in shifts in the cafeteria. This day the kitchen staff has prepared a hot meal of beans.
The lunch break was the perfect time to get an updated photo of the student body standing in front of the school.
While Chris setup for the photo, Scott interviewed students asking about the hopes and dreams for the future. It was satisfying to be able to spend a little time interacting with the children.
After the children returned to class, we decided to tour the large garden beyond the school. We learned that the vegetable garden adjacent to the school is fallow because the ground was too wet to cultivate. We walked through the gap in the fence through which the path to the outhouse goes, then down the hill and up the next hillside to where the fields start. We walked through a field planted with sweet potato vines, then a field newly planted with moringa. We kept walking and came to a field where two men were cultivating. We were told that that land was cultivated by people in village 1. We then walked back toward the school and saw an ox, which we learned belongs to the school. We also walked through fields planted with peas.
It is wonderful to report that everything is noticeably greener and lusher that we observed on previous trips. More of the land is being cultivated, and there is no evidence that recent hurricanes provided anything other than needed rainfall.
by Chris Calia