The sums required by these schools, in addition to being illegal, often exceed the financial capacity of low-income parents
A 2017 circular from the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP) sets the school fees for middle school and high school at 1,000 Haitian gourdes in public schools.
This provision appears to be ignored in several public institutions around the country, where an amount sometimes more than three times more is asked of parents who often send their children to state schools for lack of financial means, as observed by AyiboPost.
For the 2022-2023 school year, for example, students at Lycée Toussaint Louverture in Cap-Haïtien had to pay 3,000 gourdes, as reported to AyiboPost by a teacher and an 11th grade student at said institution.
For the 2022-2023 school year, students at Lycée Toussaint Louverture in Cap-Haïtien had to pay 3,000 gourdes.
This practice remains illegal. « A high school principal who decides to charge students more than 1,000 gourdes is subject to sanctions, » says France Étienne Louisseul, the Departmental Director of Education for the West department (DDEO), in an interview with AyiboPost.
According to Louisseul, nothing allows a « public school administrator to charge more than the fees set by the government. »
The director of the Lycée Toussaint Louverture in Cap-Haïtien, Jean François Benito, confirms to AyiboPost that he is charging parents 3,000 Haitian gourdes. He explains that this amount covers the operating expenses of the institution, provides energy for a computer lab, and allows for the purchase of a t-shirt with the school’s logo.
The 1,000 gourdes set by the MENFP cannot cover the operating expenses of the institution, according to Director Jean François Benito.
According to the MENFP circular, school fees are prohibited for elementary school (1st to 6th grade). The fees for these students « are paid [directly] by the MENFP through financing from the National Education Fund (FNE), » attests France Étienne Louisseul, the Departmental Director of Education.
The administration of the École Nationale de Plaisance in the North department does not adhere to these provisions. According to three students contacted by AyiboPost, the institution requires 1,300 gourdes from students in elementary school.
This practice remains illegal. A high school director who decides to require fees from students exceeding 1,000 gourdes is subject to sanctions.
According to the 2017 circular, the amount requested by the MENFP for middle school and high school should cover a range of services, including school cleaning expenses, the creation of brochures, the purchase of paper for assessments scheduled in the school calendar, and other educational activities.
Miguel Fleurijean, Director of Secondary Education at the MENFP noted that schools with limited resources receive additional support from the ministry to facilitate their operations.
In the exceptional case of schools with surplus revenue, the secondary education department can claim up to 40% of the fees as a « contribution for the organization of official exams, » says Fleurijean.
According to actors in the educational system contacted by AyiboPost, the measures taken by educational authorities regarding fees do not necessarily take into account the reality on the ground. While the state pays their staff and provides public schools with operating funds, these institutions face numerous challenges.
Josué Merilien, the General Coordinator of the National Union of Haitian Teachers (UNOH), acknowledges the « recurrent » illegality of requiring additional fees.
However, the union leader points out that school administrators face resource problems to ensure the proper functioning of schools in a context where the MENFP does not always honor its commitments.
Although the state pays their staff and provides public schools with operating expenses, these institutions face many difficulties.
However, these sums often exceed the capacity of low-income parents.
On the bill for the 3rd cycle of basic education (6-9th grade) for the 2022-2023 school year at the École Nationale de Drouin de Verrettes, the school fees are set at 2,000 gourdes, as observed by AyiboPost. This sum must be deposited into the school’s account held at a local credit union in this commune in the Artibonite department, according to a source familiar with this practice.
A teacher working at the Lycée Jacques Stephen Alexis in Verrettes reveals that the annual school fees are set at 1,500 gourdes.
Additional sums which are not specified by the MENFP are also required from parents.
For a student to have access to exams at the École Nationale du 3e cycle de Drouin, they must pay 250 gourdes to the administration for every test, according to a student at the institution.
The so-called exam fees amount to 150 gourdes at the École Nationale de Plaisance, according to three students.
Departmental directors and inspectors responsible for enforcing MENFP provisions seem to be doing nothing to compel offenders to comply.
Yet school principals who engage in these practices risk a great deal. Although they sometimes use various strategies to collect additional fees « without leaving any trace in order to escape possible sanctions from the educational authorities, » they are « liable to sanctions and may be dismissed, » warns France Étienne Louissel, Departmental Director of Education in the West department.
In fact, a parent at the Lycée National de Plaisance Chatard (LNPC) told AyiboPost that the management does not mention the 1,500 gourde school fee on the receipts.
The departmental directors and inspectors responsible for enforcing the provisions of the MENFP seem to be doing nothing to compel the violators to comply.
Some schools, including LNPC, require at least 250 gourdes as an « integration fee » to be able to register for entrance exams.
The administration at most public schools goes so far as to demand amounts exceeding the fixed cost set by the state for official exam registration.
To register for the 9th grade official exams, the MENFP requires 1,000 gourdes, according to France Étienne.
However, the École Nationale du 3e cycle de Drouin is asking for 2,250 gourdes, according to two students, in the 8th and 9th grade respectively.
The Lycée National Massillon Coicou de Plaisance is asking for 1,500 gourdes for these same exams, according to a professional familiar with the fees.
English translation by Sarah Jean.
© Cover image : freepik
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