New school in Anse a Pitres, Haiti. December 6, 2011. (Christian Fuchs ÑÊJesuit Refugee Service/USA)

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec 07 2016 – More than 30,000 children will benefit from a grant awarded to the University of Notre Dame by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve early-grade literacy in Haiti.

The grant is a part of a broader national campaign of the Haitian Catholic Church and its partners to improve literacy outcomes in 1,000 Haitian Catholic schools in the next four years (2016-2020). The USAID grant, which will cover 150 schools, will start in September in Grand Anse and Sud departments in southern Haiti. It will be led by the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Haiti, in partnership with the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education (CEEC) and the Ministry of National Education and Training (MENFP).

This initiative was always intended for the Grand-Anse and Sud departments, but following Hurricane Matthew in October, the need has become even more critical. Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., the Hackett Family Director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, said: “Read Haiti will allow us to serve these stricken communities by improving educational outcomes for some of the neediest children.”

By the third grade, 49 percent of Haitian students cannot read. Read Haiti will build upon the success of earlier literacy efforts by Notre Dame, CRS and CEEC in 47 schools in the northern part of the country using a curriculum that includes textbooks, class libraries and structured teacher guides to improve children’s skills in writing and reading in Creole, the native language of 95 percent of Haitians, with a transition to oral French. The project will also fund efforts to train and coach teachers, improve teacher-training modules and work with the Ministry of Education and other partners to support improved literacy learning throughout Haiti.

USAID Haiti Mission Director Jene Thomas highlighted the importance of USAID cooperation with the Ministry of Education of Haiti in the area of early grade reading. “Strengthening early-grade reading and writing is a priority for the Ministry of Education, and we are proud to support this effort to ensure Haiti’s children have the basic education skills they need to advance and, ultimately, contribute to Haiti’s progress.”

USAID awarded $6.3 million to support the initiative.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to show what is possible,” said TJ D’Agostino, associate director for ACE. “Public-private partnerships that leverage the commitment, reach and global networks of the Catholic Church promise to make a transformative impact on the Haitian educational system.”

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