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SOS School Reopens In Haiti

For the first time in almost three months, the flag of Haiti is flying above the SOS school in Santo.

"I am happy I got to go to school today. I have had too much time in the house and really want to work on my exams now," says 16-year-old Guerrier, who has lived in the SOS Children's Village most of his life. Since the January 12 earthquake, Guerrier has been helping out at home. Now he is ready to prepare for ninth-grade exams but realizes there's a lot of catching up to do.

Eleven-year-old Jerome was also happy to be back in the classroom. "It was boring without my friends," he said, explaining that on his first day back at school he made drawings and talked about the earthquake.

The school is not operating in full swing yet. Only sixth- and ninth-grade students returned to school on April 5. These pupils have external exams later this year, so it's crucial they start lessons now. Classes for all other grades will resume on April 19.

Becoming a School Again

A student attends class at SOS Children's Villages Hermann Gmeiner school in Haiti

Before the devastating quake, the SOS school in Santo had 550 students. Because of the disaster victims whom SOS is temporarily caring for at SOS-Santo, the school will be teaching an additional 300. Until last week, the classrooms were being used to store food donations and medical supplies. They also served as base camp for emergency staff. This week SOS staff swept the floors and reinstated the school benches.

On the first day back at school, the bell rang at 8 a.m. The chatter of 61 boys and girls turned quiet. After observing a minute of silence to remember those who perished during the earthquake, school principal Myrtil Jean welcomed all returning and new pupils. "Education is an obligation and an opportunity, so take it and work hard," he told the children.

Vice-principal Lucien Guy Ghènere, who with other school staff had been helping with emergency relief for months, was delighted to reunite with pupils. "I had not seen many of the students who come from outside the Children's Village for a long time. Some went to the provinces after the earthquake, and it felt good to see them again," he said.

Readjusting to School While Dealing with Lingering Trauma

A student attends class at SOS Children's Villages Hermann Gmeiner school in Haiti

Regular lessons are not on the agenda just yet. According to Lucien Guy Ghènere, on the first day back SOS brought psychologists into the school. Students shared their quake experiences and talked about how they are coping with their fears. They were given information on earthquake security measures. "Many still don't feel safe and are reluctant to enter concrete buildings," said Ghènere, who has worked for SOS Children's Villages for 14 years. "Many parents expressed doubts about the safety of sending their children to a concrete school building. But all have been informed about the building inspections of the school, and the fact that it is deemed completely safe."

As the person in charge of school discipline, Ghènere has dispensed for now with normal school uniform requirements. Many families have lost their belongings and are living in tents. They would be unable to send their children to school if SOS still required neatly pressed uniforms.

Getting the school back up to full speed will take time. SOS is in the process of hiring new teachers. Some classes will take place in the afternoon, while others will have to be held in large tents. For now, everyone is relieved to be back in the classroom.

Learn more about SOS Children's Villages work in Haiti and around the world by signing up for SOS eNewsletters.

SOS Children's Villages - USA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with EIN Tax ID# 13-6188433.

SOS Children's Villages - USA is the U.S. headquarters of SOS-Kinderdorf International.

  • 1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW Suite #1250, Washington, DC 20036
  • 202.347.7920
  • 888.SOS-4KIDS

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