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USAID Expands Support to Literacy in Haiti

on Tuesday, 06 December 2016.

USAID announces grant to Notre Dame to support literacy in Haiti

haiti basil moreau

Port-au-Prince, December 6, 2016- More than 30,000 children will benefit from a grant awarded to the University of Notre Dame by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve early-grade literacy in Haiti. 

Notre Dame Launches $1 million Project to Improve Reading Outcomes in Haitian Catholic Schools

on Tuesday, 02 December 2014.

The University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Haiti initiative recently launched the “Read to Learn” project, an innovative literacy program in 52 Haitian Catholic schools.

Working in partnership with the Haitian Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education (CEEC) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the project began in the summer of 2014 and is supported by a $1 million grant from an anonymous foundation, as well as additional funding and staff support from CRS and ACE.

Read to Learn will bring improved teaching methods to hundreds of teachers and high quality reading materials to benefit approximately 7,000 students over the next two years.

The project includes rural and impoverished parish schools in the Haitian dioceses of Cap-Haitian and Gonaives, and includes five schools run by the Congregation of Holy Cross, Notre Dame’s founding religious congregation.

Read to Learn addresses a critical need in the Haitian population. Forty-nine percent of Haitian students have no reading capabilities when they enter the third grade, and almost 50 percent of the adult population is illiterate. Lacking the ability to read, the majority of Haitian students fail to complete elementary school. Only five percent of students advance to secondary school, and only one percent go on to college.

According to ACE Haiti Associate Director Kate Schuenke-Lucien, who coordinates the project, illiteracy impedes educational attainment, job readiness, and ultimately the health of Haiti’s economy. The roots of Haiti’s difficulty in teaching children how to read can be traced back to its poorly educated corps of teachers and the lack of an effective literacy curriculum in Creole, the language most Haitians speak.

“Literacy is the critical lever for improving the quality of education in Haiti,” Schuenke-Lucien said. “It is the foundation of all other learning. Students must ‘learn to read’ in their native language before they can ‘read to learn’ for the rest of their lives.”

The Read to Learn project will seek to replicate an earlier literacy pilot project in which Haitian Catholic educational leaders provided support and training to 300 Haitian schools. Building upon the method and lessons learned from that project, Read to Learn will focus on Creole rather than French, as Creole is the native language of 95% of Haitians and research has consistently supported the benefits of students learning to read in their mother tongue.

The literacy model uses supportive lesson plans for teachers and students, provides extensive teacher coaching, and includes a rigorous, randomized control trial evaluation conducted in partnership with Notre Dame’s Initiative for Global Development. This approach to improving literacy has proven successful in other developing countries and has produced significant gains in reading fluency and comprehension for students.

“We believe that this early grade literacy program is the single most effective, scalable intervention to improve educational quality in the Haitian context at this time,” ACE Haiti Associate Director TJ D’Agostino said. “We hope eventually to scale the program in all of Haiti’s 2,400 Catholic schools, which constitute the largest educational provider in the country. Advancing literacy will have a profound impact for generations of Haitian children."

For more information on Notre Dame’s ACE Haiti programs or the Read to Learn project please visit the ACE in Haiti website, or view a video about literacy in Haiti.

For additional information about this project, contact: Kate Schuenke-Lucien at 574.252.9652.

Notre Dame's Committed to Haiti website gives an overview of the University's ongoing engagement with that country's challenges and aspirations for the future.

ACE and Holy Cross Kindle Hope for Haiti in New Schools and Innovative Programs

on Thursday, 14 August 2014.

ACE and generous Notre Dame Benefactors advance the mission of Haitian education


In April 23, 1879, a massive fire destroyed the Main Building of the University of Notre Dame and destroyed virtually the entire fledgling university. In what would become an iconic moment of Notre Dame’s history, Father Sorin addressed the stunned survivors: “If it were all gone, I should not give up.”

It is this same spirit of zeal and hope – especially in the face of adversity – that has characterized the Congregation of Holy Cross and the University of Notre Dame throughout their histories. This same spirit enlivens the work of the Holy Cross community and Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) in their efforts to rebuild and renew education in Haiti.

Today, four and a half years since the devastating earthquake in Haiti destroyed Holy Cross schools and infrastructure, Notre Dame and Holy Cross have rebuilt, bigger and better than ever.  With more than $1 million in support from the Notre Dame and ACE communities, Basile Moreau School, which had been reduced to rubble, has been reconstructed. This shining new facility now serves 1,000 K-12 students, twice the number as before the earthquake.  Situated in a slum neighborhood of Port-au-Prince called Carrefour, the beautiful school and campus present a stark contrast to the shacks, tents, and trash of the surrounding neighborhood.  In the words of Rev. Rosemond Marcelin, C.S.C., the principal of Basile Moreau, “We rebuilt this school to be beautiful and expansive so that the children who come here could see beyond the trash and squalor that they live in and dare to have beautiful and audacious dreams for their lives.”

Advancing Basile Moreau School’s mission to serve the poorest children and families in this community, one third of the students receive major tuition assistance, and another third attend the school at no cost.  ACE, working with generous Notre Dame benefactors, has provided 100 scholarships for each of the next five years to increase access for the poorest students. ACE has also partnered with benefactors to beautify the campus, with landscaping and the addition of a soccer field. 

Holy Cross and ACE leaders are now adding new computer labs, strengthening the English language curriculum and instruction, and developing a health clinic to serve the students, many of whom lack access to regular medical care, eyeglasses, and adequate nutrition.  This summer, Basile Moreau hosted more than a dozen Notre Dame faculty, staff, students, and alumni, including ACE graduates leading English language camps and a medical team coordinating a health screening of nearly 1,000 students and teachers. 

“The transformation at Basile Moreau School is simply breathtaking,” said Rev. Tim Scully, C.S.C., founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education.  “From the rubble, a beautiful school has emerged and is now bustling with activity and exciting and innovative programs.  Basile Moreau is a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of the Gospel in service to our most vulnerable children.”

Health.Screening.PhotoBut knowing the needs of their country, the Holy Cross leaders in Haiti and their partners in ACE have not stopped at rebuilding Basile Moreau School.  They are making great strides in constructing a new school in a growing neighborhood of Port au Prince called Tabarre, located near the international airport, with funding and construction management from the Digicel Foundation.  The new school will have an innovative English focus and will open its doors this September, eventually growing to serve an estimated 1,000 students.  This school will become the 16th that Holy Cross priests and brothers operate in the country, serving over 5,000 students, with a reputation for excellence.

ACE’s work in support of Holy Cross schools is only a small portion of the powerful impact ACE is making in Haiti.  ACE’s initiatives include working with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Haitian Catholic Church to train thousands of teachers, as well as transforming educational outcomes through an innovative literacy program that benefits over 7,500 students in impoverished Catholic schools.  Notre Dame’s ACE Haiti effort and the work of its partners represent perhaps the largest, most impactful, and most promising set of projects currently under way in Haitian education. 

The ACE in Haiti website illustrates the breadth of initiatives transforming this hard-hit country’s future through quality education for its next generations. Notre Dame’s Committed to Haiti website describes the University’s even broader efforts, integrating education, health care, and overall sustainability to support human development in Haiti.

Contact: Bill Schmitt 574-631-3893 /
Alliance for Catholic Education

Holy Cross, ACE Mark Milestones in Efforts to Rebuild Haiti Education System

Written by Drew Clary on Friday, 01 February 2013.

Group from Notre Dame Joins in Celebrating Catholic School Dedication

Almost three years to the day after hundreds of thousands were killed in the January, 2010, earthquake in Port-au-Prince, a group of more than 25 visited Haiti to survey progress made on some exciting new educational endeavors for Haiti's Catholic school system.

The group included Rev. Richard Warner, C.S.C., Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross, and Rev. Timothy Scully, C.S.C., director of Notre Dame's Institute for Educational Initiatives and co-founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), along with other leaders from ACE and colleagues in development activities in Haiti. ACE has been the locus of the University of Notre Dame's educationally-focused relief efforts. Over the last three years, ACE has developed significant partnerships with various Haitian, American, and international institutions.

These partnerships have now borne fruit in the form of a teacher training institute, the Institute Superior Marcel Bedard (ISMB), which opened its doors in Cap Haitien this fall to 30 secondary school teachers who work in three different Holy Cross schools in the northern part of the country. On Thursday, January 17th, the group of ACE staff and Holy Cross leaders who have developed the institute celebrated the inauguration of this exciting new institution. Its founding has brought international best practices in teacher education to Haiti, where 70% of teachers lack appropriate training. The program aspires to serve as a national model for the certification of high school teachers and grow into a center of excellence and innovation for the country.

Upon returning to Port-au-Prince on Friday, January 18th, the group participated in a roundtable discussion that included numerous in-country and international partners to discuss the dual challenges of access to and quality of Haitian education. Partners around the table included representatives from USAID, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, Catholic Relief Services, the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education, and the Haitian Foundation for Private Education. The lively discussion, ably moderated by TJ D'Agostino, who has coordinated ACE's efforts in Haiti for three years, focused on challenges and strategies for continuing to improve Haiti's education system.

The discussion highlighted the impressive accomplishments and leadership of the Catholic Church in Haiti in seeking to rebuild and renew Haitian education. In partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the University of Notre Dame, the Catholic school system recently completed a national study and strategic plan for Catholic education. Reaching 98% of Catholic schools, the study leveraged technology in innovative ways, collecting data, photos and GPS coordinates on iPod Touch devices. This has allowed Haitian Catholic educational leaders and their partners to develop a data-rich, interactive map of the school system to aid in effective planning and administration. Catholic educational leaders and CRS have been asked to train the Ministry of Education to allow a replication and scaling of these methods throughout the Haitian system. The roundtable emphasized the potential of the Church to serve as a catalyst for development and progress in Haiti.

Finally, on Saturday, January 19th, the group celebrated the dedication of Basile Moreau School, a school in a poor area of Port-au-Prince. Before the earthquake, the school stood as a symbol of what was possible even in the midst of crushing poverty. The primary school building required significant renovations in the aftermath of the earthquake, and the high school building was totally demolished. The renovations are complete on the primary school building, and the high school students are scheduled to move out of the tents where they have held class since the earthquake into their brand new, state-of-the-art school facility in the next two months.

The Bishop of Hinche, Msgr. Simon Saint-Hillien, csc, who founded Basile Moreau School in the late 1980s, presided at the Mass. Father Richard Warner, csc, the Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross dedicated and blessed the buildings. The bilingual homily was given by Father Tim Scully, csc, the Director of Notre Dame's Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI), and Father Michel Eugène, csc, the Provincial Superior for Holy Cross's Province of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Haiti). The students, parents, and teachers of the school community led an exuberant celebration full of song and lively testimonials from students and Holy Cross alike. It was a powerful sign of new life and hope amid the many challenges that remain in the wake of the earthquake.

Although there is much progress yet to be made in Haiti, the strong partnership between the Congregation of Holy Cross, the University of Notre Dame, and the Alliance for Catholic Education has made concrete and meaningful advancements. The powerful national partnership between Notre Dame, Catholic Relief Services and the Haitian Catholic Church is bringing national scale and impact, helping to make Catholic schools a model of innovation and catalyst for renewal throughout the Haitian educational system. These partners will remain committed to the life-saving work of Haitian Catholic education and to the children and families these schools will servefor generations to come.

Photo: At the celebration of the dedication event for the Basile Moreau School, standing on the platform (l to r) are Rev. Richard Warner, C.S.C.; the student body president from the school; and Rev. Timothy Scully, C.S.C.

Teacher Training Institute Launched in Haiti

Written by William Schmitt on Thursday, 23 August 2012.

Educators Build Community, Focus on Student Learning & Development

“How can I identify students who do not understand my course well? How can I help them?”

“How and to what extent can history or geography become a practical course?”

“I teach chemistry in an area where there are no chemistry labs. How?”

The teachers in the first cohort of the Institut Supérieure Marcel Bédard (ISBM) had plenty of questions. Some were questions that vex teachers around the world, others were particular to the environment, and nearly all demonstrated a commitment to student learning and a desire to improve teaching practice. These questions were the intellectual backdrop for the institute’s inaugural week in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, on Monday through Thursday. ISBM is sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross in Haiti in partnership with Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education.

The group will tackle the tough questions over the next two years as the teachers take part in the Institute’s innovative secondary teacher training program, but a large portion of the week’s activities were dedicated to orientation and community building. Teachers presented newly acquainted colleagues to the group and swapped stories about their mentors and classroom experiences. They also paired up for learning, with technology whizzes helping those who had never used a mouse to learn the basics so that all participants can take part in the Institute’s distance learning program.

Fatal Josue, an English teacher at Collège Notre-Dame du Perpetuel Secours in Cap-Haïtien, appreciated the interaction with his colleagues. “I can ask the other English teachers to share their ideas. We can share curriculum and exams,” Josue said. “Our goals should be similar.” Online learning communities, one pillar of the distance learning program, will facilitate that exchange.

The teachers also explored the purposes and goals of education, referencing guiding documents released in recent years by the Haitian Catholic church and the Haitian government. Both organizations emphasize students’ active involvement in their own learning, with the aim of developing the skills needed to participate fully in Haiti’s civic life and economy guided by social and moral values.

“ISMB aims to be a leader in Haitian education reform,” said Nirvah Jean Jacques, the program’s Academic Adviser and lead instructor in teaching methodology. “Both the Church and the state have articulated forward-thinking visions, which are very compatible. We will help teachers bring those visions to life in the classroom.”

To do so, the 32 participating teachers will learn new ways to plan lessons, organize learning activities, and assess student learning. As illustrated in their questions, though, many already have the necessary desire to facilitate effective learning among all students. Jean-Baptiste Gasner, a social science and Creole teacher at Collège Sainte-Eugène de Mazenod in Fort Liberté, summed it up simply. “I hope my students will surpass me in their achievement.”

-- Thanks to Dan Pier for this updated story.

-- Photo: The first cohort of participants in the ISMB.

ACE in Haiti