Supply for the Demand: Educating Teachers for Haiti

Maxo Brevil (LCS '10) conjugates verbs with his students in Spanish class; Johny Azor (LCS '05), reviewing student files in his capacity as a school administrator. LCS Principal, Principal Marjorie Mombrun (LCS '07), teaching 8th grade religion; Jean Syriaque (LCS '05), teaches algebra to 8th graders at LCS.

The Haitian Project (THP) opened Louverture Cleary School (LCS) in 1987 in response to Haiti’s largest institutional dearth: education. Since over 80% of people in Haiti live in poverty, expense is one of the biggest obstacles for families seeking an education, and thus a brighter future, for their children. Tuition for just one child, whether at public or private school, can cost 25 - 40% of the average Haitian family’s annual income. This high cost is due to a lack of supply and a tremendous amount of demand. The issue of supply is due, in great measure, to a lack of qualified teachers.  

More than 25 years after its founding, LCS, a tuition-free Catholic boarding school just outside of Port-au-Prince, works to meet this need through educating its 350 students and supporting its growing community of alumni.

Johny Azor, Jean Syriaque, Maxo Brevil and Marjorie Mombrun are just four of many examples of LCS alumni who live out the LCS motto, “What you receive for free, you must give for free,” (Matthew 10:8) through their service as teachers.

Maxo Brevil, class of 2010, joined the ranks of professional teachers as a way to continue to practice foreign languages while pursuing a university degree. Like all LCS students, Brevil took classes in four languages: Kreyòl, French, English and Spanish. Having discovered a special affinity for Spanish, Brevil applies the school motto to sharing his gift of fluency with others. This, he says, is the lesson he remembers most from Louverture Cleary, “…to share what we have with others, it is so important. It is an obligation we have, to care for one another.”

Brevil teaches Spanish to 7th – 12th grade students at two private schools. A teacher’s salary at private schools like Rene Descartes and Centre d’Étude Classique de Dagourt is nothing to brag about, he mentions ruefully, but teaching Spanish is something he simply loves to do. Even when he isn’t teaching in a classroom, Brevil practices Spanish with his friends, helping them to become as fluent as LCS taught him to be. By night, Brevil attends classes at Institut Universitaire Quisqueya-Amerique, hoping to fulfill his long-term dreams of working as an accountant.

When Johny Azor graduated in 2005, he also hoped to put his aptitude for mathematics to work as an accountant. Shortly after graduation, he returned to his alma mater, LCS to serve as a long-term substitute. THP, in turn, provided him with a scholarship to L'Institut des Hautes Études Commerciales et Economiques in Port au Prince. Though he never completed his higher education studies, Azor’s experiences living in community at LCS and later working as a teacher qualified him to work at his old primary school, College Jacques Stephen Alexis, which also operates a secondary school.

There, Azor spends six hours each week teaching mathematics to 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. When he isn’t in the classroom, Azor works in the school’s administration, handling disciplinary issues. Though it can be an arduous task, Azor considers himself uniquely eligible for the post thanks to his LCS formation. Reminiscing about his first days at LCS, he recalls, “The first lesson we learned at LCS was the meaning of integrity.  Then we learned to respect others. Living together, treating one another as brothers and sisters, this isn’t an opportunity most young Haitians have.”  

Azor says he is grateful for the stability that comes with his current job. His work enables him to support his wife, son and second child, who is expected in January.  

Jean Syriaque graduated alongside Azor in 2005, but it didn’t take long for him to return. With a characteristic grin, he explains that he always dreamed of becoming a teacher because, “I love helping other people to learn, to share what I know. Teaching math and physics is not always easy; it’s hard for many kids to understand. But I enjoy it and I know that it is what [Haiti] needs in order to develop.” Living at LCS allowed Syriaque to realize his ambition to teach even before he graduated from high school. Through LCS’s community outreach programs, Syriaque tutored young people from the neighborhood who could not afford to attend school or needed extra help with their studies.

In 2007, a former classmate who was also working at LCS, informed him of an opening for a part-time 8th and 10th grade math teacher at his alma mater. Syriaque jumped at the chance.  Seven years later, Syriaque is a full-time teacher at LCS, where his course load has slowly grown to include 9th and 11th grade physics. This spring, he expects to complete his undergraduate degree in electromagnetic engineering from the Faculté des Sciences Appliquées in Port au Prince. Syriaque plans to put in an additional year of study in order to earn a master’s degree, which will qualify him to teach at university.

When it came time for LCS to appoint a new principal this fall, it chose from among the ranks of its own alumni teachers. Marjorie Mombrun, class of 2007, pursued a degree in education from Haiti’s Institut Universitaire des Sciences de l’Éducation While working towards her degree, Mombrun lived on-campus through LCS’s junior staff program, which allows graduates to live and work at LCS while on scholarship at university. During her years as a junior staff member, Mombrun taught 8th grade religion, served as the school’s campus minister, and worked in the academic offices. Upon her graduation from university, Mombrun was promoted to the office of Dean of Academics.

In her graceful, yet self-effacing manner, Mombrun considers her work at LCS a simple fulfillment of her duty, “to give back what I have received. My experiences as a Guide taught me a lot about leadership and the importance of the mission of LCS. If [Haiti] is to develop, it must be through the education of our children. They must be able to build a better future.” (Students in their final year at LCS serve asGuides, supervisors during campus clean up and mentors to the younger students.)

Growing up in a country with less than 50% literacy, few understand the importance of an education better than LCS students and graduates. The mission of THP’s Louverture Cleary School is to form leaders who will improve their country from within. The willingness and dedication of LCS alumni to sharing what they received has an exponential impact on their communities and the country.

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The Haitian Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that runs a tuition free Catholic boarding school in Haiti for 360 students in order to nurture the future leaders of the country.  Visit their website www.haitianproject.org for more information or donate now.