As I set out for Haiti, I was struck by a statistic that had been shared with me: approximately 1% of Haitians attain university degrees, and of those, 80% leave Haiti. It is overwhelming to imagine the challenges that the resulting shortage of local leadership capacity creates for a country with one of the highest poverty rates in the world. At the same time, once I arrived I saw firsthand evidence of the waste and lack of impact that results from a long and continuing history of outside interventions that are not locally led. At one point when we were traversing the country and were far from the bustling communities that provide sources of employment and sustenance, we saw rows and rows of beautiful new stucco houses—with no sign of people, cars, or motorcycles. These houses were built with the foreign aid money that poured into the country as part of the earthquake relief, but clearly without the deep input of locally rooted Haitian leaders who would have known that it wasn’t realistic that Haitians displaced by the earthquake would buy houses so far from their communities.
It is in this context that CEO Nedgine Paul and a team of allies determined to launch and build Anseye Pou Ayiti, to develop the collective leadership that will be so crucial for Haiti’s future. She and her team have designed each part of the organization so carefully with this goal in mind. I was deeply impressed with the thoughtfulness of the APA approach and the implications its innovations could have for many across the Teach For All network.
Nedgine engaged in an important process to develop a vision for the student outcomes that APA is working towards. She co-created this vision with leaders in the four communities where APA is working and ensured it is reflective of local values and aspirations, a deep understanding of local challenges and opportunities, APA’s “3 Cs” (culture, customs, and community), and her team’s global knowledge as well.
Here is the vision that everyone who is a part of APA is working towards: When our students are 25 years old, their education will enable them to provide for themselves and their familiesensuring their basic needs are met and a high-quality education for their children and future generations. They will be proud of and value where they come from, equipped to be active citizens in Haiti with a deep knowledge of the historical, social, and economic catalysts for change both locally and globally. They will be respected leaders in their communities on a path to being decision-makers for our nation, while contributing to an ecosystem that respects social justice for all.
It was powerful to see the ways in which this vision has informed the knowledge, skills and mindsets that APA is working to develop in participants (called “teacher leaders”) and in students. The vision has deeply informed their pedagogy; APA is challenging traditional teaching paradigms by engaging students in dialogue and participatory learning, involving elders and community leaders in the learning process, drawing upon pride in Haiti’s legacy and influence as the first free black republic, and implementing a positive discipline approach incorporating local cultural practices and customs.
It was also powerful to see how APA is developing the leadership not only of students and teacher leaders, but of the others in their schools. They’ve recruited participants not only among Haiti’s recent university graduates but also among the teachers in the schools where they’re working; these teachers have real leadership potential but haven’t had access to the professional development and coaching APA provides. APA also invests in the development of the school principals, hosting regular workshops for them and developing deep relationships to strengthen the capacity of their schools.
APA’s very approach to scaling is informed by their commitment to long term, sustainable change within rural communities that historically receive less social investment. Their commitment to developing deep community roots and partnerships, and to develop a lasting presence in communities over time, has informed their approach of clustering participants within communities, hiring teacher coaches in those communities, and scaling only as fast as they can build the capacity to grow the number of communities where they have such partnerships.
I was so impressed by the outcomes already emerging from APA’s work. They are seeing significant progress in students' academic achievement and character development. And already, I saw so many indications of the promise of long-term impact. I met teacher leaders who weren’t previously living in these remote communities who are considering long-term commitments to the communities in which they’ve been placed, as well as school directors who spoke so movingly to the impact APA has had on the approaches implemented throughout their schools.
The warmth of the Haitian culture and sense of family that I felt all around me—among the staff, within the cohort, and with the broader community—only reinforced my sense of hope and promise for what lies ahead for APA, and for Haiti as a whole.
Learn more about Anseye Pou Ayiti