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Feb-02-2010 19:15printcommentsVideo

Schools in Haiti Still Under Plenty of Rubble

Many survivors still harbor fears of ever being in a classroom again.

Haiti schools
Photo/video courtesy: UN/MINUSTAH

(PORT-AU-PRINCE/SALEM) - As schools in other provinces in Haiti reopened today, students of Port-au-Prince’s Daniel Fignolé high school, one of 8,000 schools damaged by the earthquake, still grieved their deceased classmates and teachers as well as struggled with the traumatic memories of being in a classroom again.

Louis Montespoir is the Director of the Daniel Fignole School. "We don't have any teachers that died in the building - but some died elsewhere. But we have 700 students who died."

Daniel Fignolé high school once stood tall amidst violence and despair in the city’s Belair neighborhood. Six years ago, in this neighborhood, demonstrations took place demanding the return of Haiti’s ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Today, the neighborhood’s displaced people hangout by the school’s destroyed façade. Many have started seeking shelter in the school next door that still remains unscathed reducing any hope of reopening its door to students.

The UN reported that schools serving up to 1.8 million children in the city have been destroyed. In fact, all schools on the western side of the city have been completely destroyed, while 40 percent in the south remain severely damaged.

The UN is now calling for at least 4,000 temporary classrooms to accommodate the children in the city. Both the UN and school officials believe that the longer orphans and other vulnerable children stay out of school, the more likely they are to fall prey to misery or abuse, Montespoir said.

"We can't afford to waste a school year. Even if our buildings are destroyed, we can set up tents so the children who are still alive can come back to school to learn."

Many of the children who had survived the earthquake are still in shock after losing many of their friends and classmates. When the earthquake struck, three classes were in session and an estimated 700 students are suspected to be dead. Many survivors still harbor fears of ever being in a classroom again.

One of those student survivors from Daniel Fignole School, is Fedler Saint Croix, "What about the students who didn't die, like me? How are they going to find the strength to go on? There are some kids who are the only ones left in their entire family. How are kids like that going to find the will to come back to school at all?"

The UN helped to refurbish the 16-classroom school and revitalize the neighborhood after it closed down in 2004 due to political strife resulting from Aristide’s departure.

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com

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