18.05.2010 - UNESCOPRESS

Haiti: UNESCO organizes a training course for psychological support in secondary schools

© UNESCO/Mehdi Benchelah

Overcoming the trauma of the earthquake and restoring faith in the future: these were the objectives of a three-day training course for secondary school education administrators in Haiti, organized last month by the Haitian Ministry of National Education and UNESCO. These administrators will be responsible for training teachers in the field, so that they in turn can pass on this knowledge to schoolchildren.

The goal is to provide psychological support to relieve the trauma caused by the earthquake on 12 January, as well as ongoing anxiety. This type of psychosocial support aims at preventing and easing the mental after-effects of catastrophes or violent events. This concept is based on team-building techniques, role playing and discussions between pupils and their teachers.


The seminar was attended by 40 inspectors, principals and teachers, who were selected by the Ministry according to their experience. The course also included training on earthquake phenomena, risk prevention and survival techniques.


The course was organized by UNESCO, with the support of Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince. It is the first psychosocial training course for young people in secondary schools. Other United Nations agencies such as UNICEF as well as non-governmental organizations have taken similar initiatives for primary schools.


            “The main objective of this seminar was to show trainers how to manage their own emotions so that they can help children and teachers”, explained Jorès Philippe, the Haitian psychiatrist who oversaw the course. “We taught trainers how to spot symptoms of stress, trauma and post-traumatic stress in both children and teachers, as well as how to deal with them. Teachers must be seen not only as schoolmasters but also as mentors, who can give their pupils psychosocial support.”


The training course is based on a methodological guide and a reference manual produced by UNESCO, and was adapted to the Haitian situation by the faculty of education sciences at Quisqueya University.


In the weeks to come, this knowledge will be transmitted to the 2,000 teachers in the West Department, which includes the Port-au-Prince region. Ultimately, all secondary pupils in the Department, i.e. approximately 110,000 adolescents, will benefit from this support programme, which the Ministry of Education considers to be essential for a return to normal learning.


With the support of UNESCO, the Ministry is planning to widen this training course to the Nippes and South-East Departments, the two other regions affected by the earthquake, which caused between 250,000 and 300,000 deaths according to the latest estimates. In the long term, the entire country should benefit from this programme. The earthquake killed approximately 38,000 schoolchildren and students, as well as 1,300 teachers and educational staff. Nearly 80 % of the schools in the Port-au-Prince region were destroyed.

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