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Seeking to Rebuild Lives and Schools in Haiti

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AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: we meet two English teachers from Haiti. But first, an update on how schools are trying to reopen following the earthquake in January. VOA's Jeff Swicord was there as some students returned to classes Monday in the capital.

(SCHOOL BELL)

JEFF SWICORD: At 8 o'clock on the dot Principal James Polot lines up his students for the start of the school day.

(BAND PLAYING)

Like many schools around the world, the day begins by raising the flag to the national anthem. But this is no normal day. For the students of the George Washington School in Port-au-Prince, it is the first day of school since the earthquake that devastated Haiti more than two months ago.

(PRINCIPAL TEACHING)

Principal Polot told us the Ministry of Education has mandated the curriculum during the first two weeks be about the earthquake.

Officials acknowledge that with much of the country still in chaos, there is no way of knowing how many schools can actually open, or if children will be able to attend. Since the earthquake, starting anything in Haiti is a slow cumbersome process. But for many of Haiti's school children, today was a fresh start.

Jeff Swicord, VOA News, Port-au-Prince.

AA: Recently, I met two Haitian teachers who were in the United States for the annual Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages convention.

HERVE FRANCOIS ALCINDOR: "Herve Francois Alcindor. I'm from Port-au-Prince city."

AA: "And what do you ... "

HERVE FRANCOIS ALCINDOR: "A teacher of English and also a lawyer."

COMFORT DAVIS MINGOT: "My name is Comfort Davis Mingot. I'm an English language teacher in Haiti, Port-au-Prince. I work at the Haitian-American Institute."

HERVE FRANCOIS ALCINDOR: "Well, I was at a public place and I heard a noise like goo-doo-ga-doo-ga-doo. And suddenly the sky became into black. I thought it was the end of the world because the way I saw things, too much time trembling."

AA: "And all the dust just blackened out the sun."

HERVE FRANCOIS ALCINDOR: "Sure, sure, white and black at the same time."

COMFORT DAVIS MINGOT: "I was at home because I was preparing some lectures, and when I looked I just saw my house going right and left, shaking. And I got up and ran and grabbed my daughter. And when I got out of the house, the house collapsed and I saw the dust all around the neighborhood. I just see houses down, and I mean I was kind of wow, oh my gosh."

AA: "So where are you living now?"

COMFORT DAVIS MINGOT: "Right now I'm in Maryland with a friend of mine. We're coming after the earthquake because I don't have a home, I don't have anything. So I'm here while waiting for things to improve."

AA: "What happened to your home?"

HERVE FRANCOIS ALCINDOR: "My house is cracked but not down, but this is unsafe. Actually I sleep in a car next door."

AA: "And did you lose students or family members?"

HERVE FRANCOIS ALCINDOR: "Oh, yes, I lost a lot of students, a lot of law colleagues, you know, cousins ... "

COMFORT DAVIS MINGOT: "Yes, I lost a lot of friends. Even the school I work in collapsed. I lost colleagues, students and some of my best friends that used to work at the United Nations too."

AA: "So what do you think in terms of the future, the near-term or longer term, in terms of getting back to -- Herve, you're still in Haiti and you're ... "

HERVE FRANCOIS ALCINDOR: "I'll be back on the fifteenth of April to get going, because I have a mission. I have a mission to keep teaching English, different people now."

COMFORT DAVIS MINGOT: "Yes, I might be returning to Haiti in the first week in May and help with the rebuilding our life process, because life has to go on. And there are a lot of people who need help, so we have to go back and help those people. Inasmuch as we ourselves need help, but we also have to always think about others."

AA: "And how old are your -- were your students, how old are they?"

COMFORT DAVIS MINGOT: "Well, I have students [who are] thirty, forty for the adults program, and for the children's program I have from eight to fourteen years old."

HERVE FRANCOIS ALCINDOR: "I teach secondary school, and the school collapsed, totally collapsed. And fortunately I wasn't there, because on the eve I was, but the next day I wasn't. Thank God I'm here."

AA: "Your school, you were there the night before it collapsed."

HERVE FRANCOIS ALCINDOR: "I was there on Monday, but Tuesday I wasn't. This is the way my schedule works, right?"

AA: "So right now, both your schools were destroyed. Are classes being held someplace else right now?"

COMFORT DAVIS MINGOT: "Oh, no, right now, no, no classes. And even trying to reopen it, we're going to do it under tents. That's why we're appealing to the international community, to the U.S. government, if they could supply more tents to Haiti, that's going to be good, because even schools are going to be starting under tents."

AA: Comfort Davis Mingot and Herve Francois Alcindor, speaking late last month at the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages convention in Boston, Massachusetts. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. I'm Avi Arditti.

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