Improving Access to Education for the Poor in Haiti

April 11, 2017

Photo: Mary Stokes/ World Bank

After the devastating earthquake in January 2010 that left hundreds of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced, Haiti undertook to strengthen the nation’s education system by improving its accessibility and quality. Efforts to achieve these objectives, included tuition waivers, school feeding programs, pre-service and in-service teacher training, and technical and material support to strengthen the Ministry of National Education and Professional Training (Ministère de l’Education Nationale et de la Formation Professionnelle) and the education system overall.


With a GDP per person of US$673, Haiti is the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean and one of the poorest countries in the world. In the last several years, a series of external shocks have hit, including the 2010 earthquake, exacerbating the country’s fragility and reversing the poverty gains achieved since 2001. Haiti’s education sector faced tremendous challenges post-earthquake, including significantly diminished capacities for responding to them. The losses of schools, teachers, and staff from the Ministry of National Education and Professional Training (Ministère de l’Education Nationale et de la Formation Professionnelle, MENFP) compound the problems of a sector that already faced a shortage of schooling infrastructure, trained teachers, and effective governance mechanisms.

On the supply-side, there were simply not enough spaces for children to enroll in free public schools, as four out of five primary schools in Haiti are private.  Tuition, even in the lowest-cost private schools, was prohibitive for poor families, especially for those living in rural areas characterized by poverty rates of 82 percent (77 percent living in extreme poverty). Although access to education has improved dramatically over the past twenty years, due to high demand from families and a proliferation of low-cost private schools, challenges still exist regarding late entry and school progression due to the cost burden on families and the relatively low quality of education. While 90 percent of children aged between 6 and 12 are enrolled in school, they start primary school on average two years later than national goals suggest, and once at school, only 50 percent of students successfully reach sixth grade on time.


The objective of Education for All Project for Haiti: Phase II is to support (i) enrollment of students in select non-public primary schools in disadvantaged areas; (ii) student attendance in select public and non-public primary schools in disadvantaged areas; and (iii) strengthened management of the Haiti’s primary education sector.  Project financing aims at (i) improving access to primary education through the tuition waiver program and provision of basic educational services in underserved rural communities; (ii) supporting teaching and learning through a school health and nutrition program, as well as through pre-service and in-service training for primary school teachers; and (iii) improving sector management by building the institutional and monitoring and evaluation capacity of the MENFP


The project has yielded substantial results from inception through 2016. Among the achievements attained are the following:

·         Over 430,000 tuition waivers were financed, allowing disadvantaged children to attend school free of charge.

·         Daily hot meals, snacks, deworming, and vitamin A were provided to more than 370,000 students across 430 schools.

·         Schooling was provided to more than 6,500 children in poor, rural Haitian communities previously underserved. These children were also provided with school textbooks and pedagogical materials.

·         Over 3,500 student-teachers benefited from accelerated pre-service teacher training, resulting in 3,570 additional qualified primary school teachers.

·         Nearly 300 primary school teachers and 300 school directors benefited from scripted in-service training on early grade reading.

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the International Development Association, provided a grant in the amount of US$ 70 million to complement efforts made under the first phase of the program to guarantee access to quality education, improve the management of the system, and increase school attendance. 


The Education for All Project: Phase II was co-financed by the Canadian government (through the Haitian Reconstruction Fund) and the Global Partnership for Education for a combined total of US$ 119 million. The Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank also contributed directly to some activities under the program.  

Moving Forward

To prevent students from leaving school after Hurricane Matthew, the World Bank and its partners scaled up school feeding, building rehabilitation, and support for the Ministry of Education in its efforts to restore access and improve educational quality for Haiti’s children through the Education for All: Phase II project. In addition, the Bank, through the International Development Association, approved in November 2016 a grant in the amount of US$30 million to maintain access to quality education in the areas most affected by Hurricane Matthew.


The project directly benefited more than 900,000 children. Among these beneficiaries is Jessica Prudent, an eleven-year-old student who attends Coeurs Unis school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Port Au Prince, Carrefour Feuille. She is among the 50 percent of students who reached grade six on time, in large part due to the tuition funding she has received through the program over the past six years. “I really like French, social science, and math.  I feel very proud that my grade average is 9.8. I am always at the top of my class.… I would like to be a nurse so that if someone in my family is ill, I can care for them. To succeed, I have to finish school. I must study a lot to move to the next class. The Education for All Program has enabled me to get this far. Without it, I don’t know where I would be,” says Jessica, who is now is in her final year of the tuition waiver program. 

Daily hot meals, snacks, deworming, and vitamin A were provided to more than 370,000 students across 430 schools.