Haiti has the opportunity to build the best higher education system in the Caribbean.” The January 12 earthquake practically destroyed the higher education system in Haiti. Nearly all of the higher education institutions in the Port-au-Prince area, where 79 percent of the 150 post-secondary institutions in the country are concentrated, were affected. Since the universities must be rebuilt, why not build the best? Building the best requires higher education leaders to behave differently than in the past. It also necessitates new approaches from higher education and other institutions desiring to support their counterparts in Haiti. Also important is providing access to higher education for the more than 30,000 Haitian young people who graduate high school each year and giving them a viable pathway to livelihood and to remaining in the country. It is also clear that Haitians will be the driving force in efforts to rebuild and improve the higher education system, although they will not be able to do it alone. Five basic principles will help guide the work of Consortium members.
- Democracy, inclusiveness, and human rights: Haitians understand that an educated citizenry is key to a democratic society. Therefore, education in general and higher education in particular must be construed as a public good and be inclusive, as well as accessible. The Consortium will model these strengths that make education a means for ensuring democracy and human rights.
- Connecting higher education to the needs of Haiti: An effective education system contributes to a country’s social, cultural, and economic development. The strengthening of the education system, including higher education, must be an important component of the rebuilding of Haiti. In that context, the Consortium will make sure to bring Haitian solutions to what are Haitian problems. The consortium will also be guided by the principle of equity, taking into consideration the differential responsibilities of the public and private institutions vis-à-vis the Haitian public.
- Working relationship between Haitians in Haiti and Haitian partners from abroad: The needed changes in the Haitian higher education system require collaborative participation of Haitians within and outside of Haiti, as well as material support from the international community. The collaboration between Haitian and foreign institutions must be a true bilateral exchange in which both partners are equal. Institutions in the international community will not dominate the Consortium’s agenda. Rather, the Consortium’s administrative structure will ensure full participation of Haitian partners. This equality will concretely manifest itself in the fact that all consortium documents will also be in Creole and French, in keeping with Haiti’s constitution.
- Governance, structure, and decision-making: Cognitive flexibility and avoidance of ideological preferences will be the norms; further, experience, expertise, and empirical evidence will guide decision-making in the collective interest of Haitians. The consortium will encourage the development of specific structures for empowerment, shared leadership, and accountability within Higher Education in Haiti. The Consortium is also committed to building capacity for sustainable change in all Haitian partner institutions.
- Importance of immediate action: Timely action is necessary, since every day that passes without an effective higher education system in Haiti contributes to strangling the country’s social, cultural, and economic future. The Consortium will facilitate concrete and immediate actions to address agreed-upon short and long-term problems starting with pilot projects including measurable goals and objectives that address faculty training, student access, improved curriculum, increased learning, and better management, among others.