The Dominican Republic and Haiti share the island of Hispaniola, however relations between the 2 nations have been rancorous for nearly two centuries. As Haiti as soon as once more teeters on the brink, I spent per week within the Dominican Republic, conversing with Haitians residing there. That is the second column of a three-part collection from these conversations. Learn the primary column right here.
SANTO DOMINGO — For years, the Dominican Republic was only a transit level for me to get to Haiti. I didn’t spend a lot time there till 2010, after the earthquake that but once more shone worldwide gentle on our beleaguered nation of greater than 13 million folks.
It was throughout that point I found a class of Haitians residing there that didn’t get a lot protection: College college students. I met a gaggle of them at Mother and Teacher Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago de los Caballeros, the DR’s second largest metropolis.
There, I discovered that in contrast to the opposite Haitians, the batey employees, college students have been spared the indignities of life within the neighboring nation as a Haitian. The scholars defined then that their educational pursuits earned a sure degree of respect and deference from Dominicans. They have been seen as future leaders of Haiti. And moreover, who doesn’t respect a college pupil?
Quick ahead to this decade. As Haiti finds itself tearing on the seams, Dominican officers have turned their ire onto Haitian college students as nicely. The authorities have arbitrarily revoked some folks’s visas and made the factors for acquiring entry harder than I remembered.
Final month, I returned to the DR to speak to a brand new era of scholars and speak to them about what it’s like right here now. This time, my vacation spot was ‘Capital,’ as locals name the bustling seaside metropolis of almost 3 million that’s Santo Domingo.
The story hasn’t modified a lot. However each day life has gotten extra difficult.
For one, the scholars instructed me their fear was much less about Dominican officers harassing them over visas. Their present challenges stem from households in Haiti, who wrestle to pay tuition. Typically, a relative in North America is the one footing the invoice for superior education within the DR.
Pop quiz: What do highschool graduates in Haiti do?
I spent a while on the campus of Catholic University of Santo Domingo, the place I met with some Haitians finding out there. These college students’ major and secondary schooling have been performed principally in French and Creole, whereas they have been in Haiti. But, they’re doing post-secondary work in Spanish. Many endure an intensive Spanish studying program earlier than enrolling.
For this new group of scholars, the chance to have attended a college in Haiti has remained elusive. You see, Haiti doesn’t have sufficient colleges for the a whole lot of 1000’s of excessive schoolers it has graduated. So 12 months after 12 months, children face a life-changing query: What do I do after commencement?
The choices are:
a) Don’t attend a college.
b) Enroll in a faculty based mostly in your mother and father’ social connections.
c) Fly off to high school in Europe or North America.
d) As a final resort, head east to the DR for college.
At Catholic College, the little kids from households of modest means don’t have the contacts to be admitted or means to go far overseas. However they starvation for a greater life. So, D it’s.
I requested the group how they make a residing. They depend upon the largesse of household and associates abroad, they instructed me. They’ve all developed an entrepreneurial zeal. Some are caterers. Others promote items from their properties. A couple of are occasion organizers whereas attending faculty full time.
Regardless of these difficulties, I discovered an air of optimism amongst my younger compatriots. To them, regardless of how dangerous issues could also be, it’s higher on this facet of Hispaniola. And, at the least with a college diploma, they’ve a combating probability.
A bewildering selection
There are a lot of issues that confound me about Haiti and its authorities. This journey of Haitian college students to the DR is certainly one of them. I can’t perceive why the federal government wouldn’t construct the nation’s larger schooling capability to retain these younger and proficient minds at house.
Based on the most recent statistics, about 80,000 Haitian college students are within the DR. Think about the income that quantity, have been it to remain in Haiti, might generate. Think about how one can decentralize the congested cities throughout the nation.
On the threat of echoing John Lennon, think about a greater Haiti that may maintain its residents. That’s what I wish to do.
Let’s take the U.S. for instance. I do know the 2 are polar opposites with an unlimited hole in wealth. The purpose is that each state within the union is determined by schools and universities as a serious supply of financial stimulus. Upstate New York couldn’t exist with out its plethora of universities and the ensuing money infusions. On any given Saturday within the Fall, universities generate tens of millions for his or her communities with followers filling up stadiums, staying at motels and shopping for meals — to help the sports activities applications alone.
I wish to think about one thing like that in Haiti. I wish to see a Haiti the place its greatest and brightest will not be craving to go away. Of all of the challenges that Haiti faces, this one is doable. We simply have to think about Haiti as a republic, as an alternative of because the untamed territory it has turn out to be.
Think about… the good return
Whereas within the DR, I additionally spoke with Dr. Michael Etienne, who owns a dental clinic in one of many higher neighborhoods in Capital. He studied right here years prior and confronted the identical difficulties as the opposite college students. Etienne, a good-looking man with an infectious positivity, instructed me that regardless of his success, his native St. Marc is the place his coronary heart is. He needs to be there, however the actuality of Haiti retains him in Santo Domingo.
Think about Etienne and a stream of different college students returning to Haiti to run companies, work in authorities and turn out to be productive members of Haitian society. Why is that so tough to attain?
Over time, I’ve stored in contact with the Santiago bunch from 2010. I bumped into one in Haiti, however all the others dwell outdoors the nation. A number of are within the U.S., Canada and Chile. A couple of have remained within the DR.
All of them are profitable and are elevating households and the challenges that go together with that. Think about. Think about. Think about.