Our ABST participants had a great afternoon on Sunday visiting with 5 Haitian university students. We learned the following:
1. Education is a privilege: Only half of Haitian children have access to elementary education and only a fifth of those are able to go on to the secondary level let alone continue further to university studies. Seats at public universities are highly coveted with much competition while entrance to private universities can be prohibitively expensive. Jimmy, a student majoring in Business and Management, tells us that you don't get a second chance at this so, if a scholarship opportunity comes along, you work very hard to make the grade.
2. Education is a sacrifice: Students live at home as the universities do not provide such a thing as "on-campus housing." Gloria, another business student, is up at 5am in order to catch the bus from her village to get to Port-au-Prince for her class day that begins at 8am. She doesn't make it home until well after dark. On top of this, she still has to find time to study and complete assignments. She notes that her family doesn't get to see her much even thought they're in the same house at the end of the day.
Our new friends talked about their areas of study: Business, Medicine, Languages, and Computer Science. All of them spoke English very well. They asked good questions of our GU students to reflect on similarities and differences in educational systems in our respective countries. Our students were glad to rebut the stereotype in some movies of university-life as a "party school.". At the same time, we were led to a deeper appreciation of the privilege of education and the responsibility to use it well.
Afterward, the conversation turned to a casual and fun exchange of what we do for fun which eventually led to an impromptu version of "The Cup Song.". (I have no idea what that is, but they all did!) For my part, I was privileged to be a participant and a witness in this student exchange that brought our group into a genuine encounter that turned strangers into friends.
Fr. Michael Kesicki