Haiti: Misleading Reports of Students Enrolled in School for Free
Sunday, 27 November 2011 11:40
by Samuel Maxime ..
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (defend.ht) - The Ministry of National Education and Professional Development's (MENFP) Research and Planning Unit (UEP) Coordinator told the public 850,000 students are attending school for free but this information is misleading.
A news feed from Haiti LIBRE, entitled "850,000 children currently in school for free" quoted the UEP Coordinator, Ellicel Paul, as confirming the number but did not include important details.
One critically important detail is that this number of 850,000 students attending school for free are attending Haiti's national schools, which are public schools and have always been free.
Although they are public schools, they do assess a 100-200 HTG ($2.50-$5.00[US]) registration fee on each student per school year.
This fee was waived by the Haitian presidency in October when it declared the National Fund for Education (FNE) in effect, but so far, for the 2011-12 school year, the FNE has not compensated the schools for the loss of revenue. As a result, school districts administrators fear they may have to end the school lunch programs and others in the poverty-stricken districts of Cite Soleil, Bel-Air and Solino feel they may have to close their doors.
National Fund for Education Not Operational
Minister of Education Reginald Paul declared the FNE not operational at the level of his ministry on Friday November 25. The program launched by President Michel Martelly had hoped to provide the subsidies listed below but were met with challenges:
Group A/B/D: 182,000 students across the 10 departments would be brought into the education program for the first time. 80% of these students, 146,000, would go to the nation's national schools; already free schools. The remaining students would be enrolled in private institutions.
The FNE was expected to cover the increase in students by providing $100[US] per child, per school year. This amount is a little more than a third of the $141[US] that Haitian education officials estimate the cost of education a child for one year.
The national schools have seen an increase in first time students to enter their schools. Parents brought their children to schools expecting no cost at all and school administrators have not turned away any students.
Neither the Haitian parliament or independent agency has published an audit of the actual number of new students in national or private schools.
Group C: 490,000 students, already in the nation's national schools would not have to pay registration fees. Minister of Education Reginald Paul said that money recently donated and in the national treasury has been used to provide institutions 15,000-30,000 HTG ($375-$725 [US]). School administrators argue that this is not enough.
At a Friday press conference, Minister Paul said he only awaits that the National Fund for Education be put into a legal framework before utilizing the $40 million [US] dollars it is expected to hold in its coffers.
In October, the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) reported to the Chairman of the Senate Finance and Economy Committee that it only held $2 million [US] in the FNE account with no withdrawals in its record.
The National Fund for Education was launched in May of 2011 and assesses a $0.05 [US] cents per minute tax on international calls to Haiti and a $1.50 fee on money transfers to Haiti. The fund was estimated to bring in $8.5 million [US] per month through the tax. The legality of the two taxes is under scrutiny as they diverge from ARTICLES 111-2, 218, 219 and 224 of the Constitution of Haiti.
The Constitution of Haiti
However, only the Executive Branch may initiate budget laws, laws concerning the assessment, percentage and manner of collecting taxes and contributions, and laws designed to generate revenues or to increase revenues and expenditures of the Government, Bills introduced on these matters must be voted on first by the House of Deputies.
No Government levy may be established except by law. No charge or tax, whether imposed by a Department, a Municipality, or Communal Section, may be established without the consent of its territorial divisions.
ARTICLE 219: No preferential tax treatment may be established.
No tax exemption, increase, decrease or elimination may be established except by law.
National monetary policy is set by the Central Bank jointly with the Minister of Economics and Finance.