Improving access to primary school in Haiti

August 29, 2013

Richard Carroll/World Bank

The Project financed school tuition and school nutrition for hundreds of thousands of primary school students, and created a mechanism by which other donors could provide critical resources to the country after the 2010 earthquake. The National Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MENFP) received resources for capacity building. School Management Committees (SMCs) who were initially responsible for managing the tuition waiver program also received training in financial management and reporting.


The Bank had not engaged in the Haiti education sector for eight years and the sector was in a weak state.  The primary net enrollment rate was 71 percent in 2006, with a primary level completion rate of 66 percent.  An estimated 500,000 children aged 6-11 did not attend school of any kind, and only about half of all six year olds were enrolled in first grade. 

More than 80 percent of all primary level students attended non-public schools.  The Living Conditions Measurement Survey revealed that 43 percent of all parents (50 percent for parents in the lowest income quintile) did not send their children to school because of the costs of school tuition, books, uniforms and transportation for the private-based education system.

Curricula were outdated and not relevant for over-age students who made up the bulk of the primary education population.  Teaching practices were “chalk and talk”, requiring students to recite words and phrases they frequently did not understand.  In addition, about 75 percent of all teachers lacked adequate training with many having just a 9th grade education, with no formal teacher training. 

Affecting both quality and access was the state of children’s nutrition as approximately 40 percent of Haitian children suffered from a caloric deficit of an average of 460 kilo-calories per day.   Many school children were commuting long distances from home to school, often without eating any breakfast.  The challenges of implementation became far more difficult when the January 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, killing 200,000 Haitians.  The Bank responded to the damage, death and chaos caused by the earthquake with substantial additional financial and supervisory resources so that the Project could continue delivering services to the beneficiaries.


Successful implementation depended on a number of factors: (i) the proper functioning of the public financing mechanism that applied school eligibility rules; (ii) proposal evaluation/ranking criteria; (iii) transparent, multi-stakeholder mechanisms to choose participating schools; (iv) use of the commercial banking system to make transfers to school management committees; (v) extensive public information campaigns; and (vi) independent external monitoring of use of financial transfers.  The Project was set up to deal with these challenges through the Subsidy Program Operational Manual, which is part of the grant’s overall operational manual. 

The subsidy program operational manual included funding criteria, review procedures, and measures to ensure both transparency and accountability in subsidy allocations.  The Project’s activities depended, in particular, on the operationalization of public-private partnerships (PPPs).  This strategy meant that the Project would use public funds to support private entities, such as private schools and NGOs, in the provision of educational and nutrition services.  The Project also developed capacity for measurement of educational outcomes through the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) sub-component.


Between 2007-2012, the project allocated 85 percent of its resources to improving access to primary education.  With the additional funds that it catalyzed, access was improved by funding 425,000 student-years of tuition for students to attend private schools who might otherwise not have been able to attend. 

In addition, the Project delivered 260,000 primary students school lunches students.  This was a critical achievement, especially when considering that an earlier census had indicated that approximately 500,000 children were out of school.  The tuition waiver program also improved equity through basis of “self-selection” to the program, with students voluntarily coming forward to apply to the program.  The tuition waiver was set at US$90, which is at the lowest end of primary tuition costs.  Thus, only poorer students would be interested in the program and targeting was carried out through this self-selection. 

The fact that the tuition waiver was targeted to poorer students in a country with a 78 percent poverty rate suggests a strong equity component to the activity.  A baseline for educational outcomes was established under the project for EGRA.

Bank Contribution

The Bank contributed aUS$(amount) grant to finance this project.  The tuition waiver program actual cost was US$26.81 million (70 percent of total project cost), while the school nutrition program cost US$7.42 million (19 percent of total project cost).  Project coordination and institutional strengthening each accounted for about 5 percent of project costs. 


There is a strong partnership between the Bank and a number of other donors, in part, created by this project which provided a vehicle for other donors to provide resources to the education sector that went beyond the resources of APG-1.

Donor Amount ($)

Caribbean Development Bank: 13,430,000
Canada Aid: 5,200,000
France: 7,500,000
Interamerican Development Bank: 3,150,000
Total: 29,280,000

Moving Forward

The second phase of this project (APG-2) is currently under implementation (closing date of June 30, 2015) and is continuing the main initiatives of APG-1, in particular the school canteen, tuition waivers, teacher training and institutional capacity building.  APG-2 also has a far greater resource envelop than did APG-1 (US$70 million vs. US$37 million with the additional financing). 

There is risk to the tuition waiver and school nutrition programs, because it continues to rely on funding from other donors.  However, APG-2 is ensuring that there is continued support for tuition waivers and school nutrition through 2015 and has marshaled other donor support, and it appears that donors will continue to support the program.  President Martelly has also taken the program nationwide and the Haitian Government plans to support the programs through a newly legislated tax.  An advance from the Haitian treasury funded tuition waivers for the 2011-2012 school year.  The national program is estimated to have benefited approximately 900,000 students.  The APG-2 is also pursuing a holistic approach by including teacher training within the Project design as opposed to a separate project. 


The tuition waiver program, in many instances, particularly in rural schools, was the only source of funds to pay teachers, buy books and rebuild destroyed classrooms.  Communities were grateful for the project as students sang songs to the ICR team in Torbeck as a way of thanking the World Bank and other donors for their support. 

student-years of tuition were funded for students to attend private schools.