Educational support vital in Haiti
It is undeniable that the international community has shown the utmost support for Haiti. If you have not already seen the messages to donate $10 via your cell phone, you are probably living under a rock or a studying as a pre-med student. The government, celebrities and ordinary people are dedicating valuable time and resources toward the relief effort. In these last two weeks, the world has seen the extent of America's capabilities to help those in dire need. I am, however, skeptical about people's commitment. Most people, especially Americans, are attracted to shock value. Their interest tends to wane if something new and exciting is not being offered. When this eventually happens, the television networks, celebrities and even the government, will inherently follow suit. The purpose of this article is not to denounce the general public for its lack of sympathy, but to discuss what the primary focus of America and the international community should be.
It would be na'iuml;ve to approach Haiti with the belief that there will be continued outside support. With natural disasters, there is always an inclination to invest resources into infrastructure that is unable to endure in the long term. Aid is usually entirely dedicated to building hospitals, fixing roads and feeding the hungry. And while it is undoubtedly important to appropriate funds toward these basic functions, it should not be our primary concern. Despite President Barack Obama's unwavering commitment to Haiti and the massive amounts of donations toward the effort, support will not cover the entire cost of rebuilding cities such as Port-au-Prince. With that being said, using outside forces to build these basic foundations only perpetuates a much deeper problem. As funds eventually dry up, roads will crumble, hospitals will be abandoned and people will again go hungry. In effect, Haiti will be placed back into a position that makes them extremely vulnerable to another devastating earthquake.
I have a propensity to promote limited funding and resources toward these types of infrastructure. If basic utilities are created by anyone else but Haitians, deterioration will inevitably occur. Capital for these projects needs to be initiated by its own people. They must cultivate a true understanding of where to find the money to build roads and hospitals, as sufficient funds from other countries will not always be there. This needs to happen in order for the people to develop the sense to create a society based on independent, economic and social growth. In addition, if foreign aid is fully focused on funding these projects, the question of sustainability becomes an issue. Are there enough doctors to run the hospitals? Is there enough money to maintain these roads? If so, how will the taxation system work? There is an array of problems associated with only providing solutions on the surface. Our short attention spans predispose us to approaching obstacles in the same way. As a result, I believe the only way to give Haiti a fighting chance for the future is to invest the majority of aid toward more sustainable infrastructure, primarily education and training.
Education is the backbone of society. It gives a community the ability to create a lifestyle that makes it completely dependent upon itself. Current funds should be dedicated to creating a system that gives Haitians the means, as opposed to the ends, of rebuilding their own country. By implementing a comprehensive educational system, we will be placing the success of Haiti in the hands of its people. This does not, however, mean education in the traditional sense. While schooling for the youth is equally important, we need to open up opportunities for Haitians to effectively manage local businesses or learn technical jobs. This will provide them with the tools required to effectively repair and maintain infrastructure for years to come, without the need for outside support. Furthermore, education also gives individuals the capacity to reflect upon the realities surrounding them. People will speak of the corruption in government and its need for reform; however, the only ones who have the capability to change it are the Haitians themselves.
They need to be enlightened first, before they can even consider the possibilities of action. Aid should be focused on facilitating this process. For one, the United States should encourage its own citizens to consider ventures into teaching in Haiti. This can be done by adding a specialized program within the Peace Corps or placing incentives for outside organizations to develop their own programs. These forms of assistance should be run for as long as funds will permit to do so.
Secondly, along with the training of individuals to manage their own businesses, the U.S government can engage in a series of microfinancing ventures to local citizens. This helps in rebuilding infrastructure, while also placing responsibilities on the people to create a completely independent economy. My suggestions are obviously a gross oversimplification of what can be done to develop the proper means to creating sustainability. On the other hand, I believe creating a system modeled off these goals is much more effective in achieving a greater end. At this point, Haiti is placed in a position that cannot even consider these options; however, when the country returns to relative normalcy, this should be our course of action. Compassion is limited these days, so it is important to capitalize on it by establishing something permanent.
Brian Canares is a Rutgers College senior majoring in history and political science.