Haiti Students Return To Classes After School Closures Due To Gang Violence

(CMC) – Students in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince are getting used to being back in class after gang violence closed their school for three years.

The Lycée National de La Saline, which reopened in January, is located in one of the poorest, most troubled, and disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince. Some 5000 people live in La Saline.

It closed after five armed gangs attacked the neighbourhood in November 2018, leaving 26 people dead. The youngest victim was only 10 months old. In a report on the incident, the United Nations also said there were two cases of gang rape.

According to the report, residents of La Saline were “allegedly targeted for their supposed affiliation to rival armed gangs.”

The school was shuttered in the wake of that attack.

The UN is supporting the reopening of schools like Lycée National de La Saline.

Greeted by the student brass band, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, toured the school which had received a fresh coat of paint and a new mural welcoming her to the compound. She greeted pupils in their classrooms and had a message for them.

“You have a huge opportunity to get an education; you are the future of Haiti,” she said. “Some of you want to be doctors or nurses. You can be anything you want with a good education and that begins at this school,” Mohammed added.

The United Nations works closely with the government to improve access to free education and quality learning in order to make sure more children in the most vulnerable parts of Port-au-Prince and across Haiti are able to attend school.

“You have a big responsibility,” Mohammed told the students, “because not everyone is in school, so you are privileged. You need to show your communities that to go to school leads to development, to progress.”

The UN estimates that more than 200 schools have closed under pressure from gangs as violence continues in Port-au-Prince.