(Photo courtesy Baptist Haiti Mission)
Haiti (MNN) ― Several thousand marchers demonstrated against Haitian President Michel Martelly on the anniversary of the coup that toppled president Jean-Bertrand Aristide 21 years ago.
Protestors denounced the rising cost of living, the government's corruption, and also called for Martelly to step down. It was the third weekend in a row that manifestations took place. And it was against that backdrop that more than three million children in Haiti began the school year this week.
Baptist Haiti Mission Field Director Rob Baker says, "We were anticipating that this was going to be a very difficult opening of school, not only because of the rise in the cost of living (we have been having some demonstration in different parts of the country), but also because of the recent hurricane that devastated just about all of Haiti."
The cost of living has skyrocketed, and many families have had to make a difficult choice. Baker explains. "Many of our schools were already suffering because last year some of the parents were not able to pay tuition. So it's just going to be an extremely difficult year this year."
Roughly a third of Haitian children begin school, but only 2% stay in school beyond the 5th grade. Teachers in Haiti are generally poorly trained and equipped. Schools and classrooms are overcrowded. This is where BHM partnerships can help.
Children in BHM-sponsored schools receive a variety of materials such as their school uniform, one meal a day, tuition fees and vaccinations for preschool children.
For example, the team just unloaded a shipping container this week full of food and supplies. Baker says they're already earmarked. "This year we're not only assisting the schools associated with the mission, but we're also probably assisting close to 30 other schools."
Feeding children in schools underscores the importance of education in their ministry. "We did have some training in our Bible curriculum (that we're offering to the first grade this year) to prepare for the opening of school."
In Haiti, generations of families have gone without any education. This continuing situation contributes to the country's poor health and low economic production. For those who go to school, education often brings both stability and opportunity. The ability to read also means the opportunity to study and understand God's Word.
Because of their work with children, families get involved. As a result, churches are growing, and the scope of Gospel outreach is getting broader. Baker says, "That also makes a great strain on the churches, because oftentimes people are coming to the church to find help, financially or materially, for their living and existence, as well."
Pray that the LORD will place Christian teachers in the schools that will train the children to think with a biblical worldview. With the expected snags coming, Baker urges, "Pray for the Baptist Haiti Mission, that we would have the resources to meet these challenges that continue to grow, year by year."