© América Solidaria
30 January 2017

More than seven years after being approved in the Haitian Chamber of Deputies and Senate, the law on school fees was approved by the country’s president, Jocelerme Privert on 3 January 2017 and published in Le Moniteur, the country’s Official Gazette,

The law was put before parliament by Senator Kelly Bastien and regulates the payment of fees for school and extracurricular activities as well as the rate at which the county’s private schools can increase fees. The new regulations require school fees to be paid in local currency and prohibit schools from charging re-enrolment fees.  The amount private schools can charge as security deposit is now also capped at 500 Gourdes ($US 7.57). Fees are charged in Haitian schools to cover access to drinking water, electricity, educational materials, safe, clean sanitation, and sporting equipment,

The new law also requires private schools to start paying tax on the sale of school supplies and uniforms on their premises.  And in the case of extracurricular activities, the law prohibits teachers from offering one to one teaching in their classrooms without prior consent from parents and pedagogical guidance from the management of the education centre.

The Haitian Education for All Coalition (REPT), a civil society coalition and member of CLADE in Haiti, welcomed publication of the law, judging it to be a tool for protecting parents against having to pay excessive school fees, and for reducing barriers to access to education.

In a public statement, REPT called on the Haitian government, notably the Ministries for National Education, Professional Development, and Local Communities to adopt all necessary measures to implement the school fees law, highlighting that some of the law’s articles required updating and adapting in order to maintain spirit of the law and to ensure successful compliance.

Since 2009, REPT has, alongside organisations, teachers’ unions and the Haitian popular and progressive social movement as well as a large part of the population and national and international allies, advocated and demonstrated in favour of publication and enforcement of the law on school fees.

According to William Thélusmond, REPT’s principal coordinator, another factor contributing to publication of the law after so many years was a visit to the country in July 2016 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh.  Over the course of various meetings, interviews and conversations with key actors in the public sector and civil society organisations, the former rapporteur highlighted the need for control and regulation of private actors working in the education sector.

At the time, a report on Dr Singh’s visit was published and distributed to various arms of the Executive and Legislative Authority and to influential country organisations.  When meeting with the former rapporteur, the president of the Haitian Senate Education Commission promised to petition the parliamentary president to resubmit the school fees law for approval by the President of the Republic.

'The time was right for a law impeding the impunity with which private school proprietors and head teachers could demand money from families. This new law goes against the profit motive of the great majority of them. We need to stay mobilised now that the private sector is reacting angrily and will do everything possible to try and block implementation of the law.  In conclusion, this law gives us a new tool in the fight, which is a victory', Thélusmond asserted.

Background - Since 2009, REPT has supported the process of voting the law through the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.  In doing so, they have planned and carried out activities designed to disseminate information on the law, such as formulating communications tools and holding press conferences and talks with members of organisations within the education sector as well as other groups such as rural communities, women and young people.

The coalition also helped to organise and hold conferences on the content of the draft law in public universities - especially the teacher training college - and took part in public demonstrations on the streets with students in which they held up a banner demanding the publication of the law already voted on in parliament.

'The demand for the approval of the law on school fees has been integral to all of REPT’s activities, like something demonstrating the bad faith, the disinterest, the hypocrisy and the partisan nature of Haitian presidents in favour of private schools.  We have never missed an opportunity or forgotten to talk about the law, and we felt this was very important to us. In the meantime, the private education sector countered by attempting to modify the content of the law or by impeding its publication', stated Thélusmond.

Contains information from Radio Televisión Caraíbes (Caribbean Radio Television)

A Spanish language version of this post first appeared on the website of CLADE, the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education, and is reproduced here with their kind permission.