PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Believing in the potential of Cité Soleil’s youth, more than 20 Haitian businesses united to repair, seismically strengthen and renovate the largest secondary school in the community. The school suffered from structural deficiencies that could have placed many students’ lives at risk in the event of another earthquake.
The school, Lycée Nationale de Cité Soleil, will celebrate its inauguration on Thursday, Nov. 13.
There is much cause for celebration. Because of structural deficiencies, the school was evacuated and sat unused for several years after the 2010 earthquake until a diverse collaboration between Haiti’s Ministry of Education, Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief, the Haitian private sector and the Government of Japan stepped in to repair and seismically strengthen the school.
“As the gates unlocked on the first day of school, the students and staff were so proud of having a strong, safe school for the first time in more than four years,” said Mr. Jean Cribe, director of the school. Lyceé Nationale is the only public school providing secondary education to the Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, a marginalized community with a population of more than 300,000.
The 7.0-magnitude quake destroyed or significantly damaged about 5,000 schools, depriving 2.9 million children of access to education. At Lycée Nationale, the students, ages 12 to 17, undertook their studies in difficult learning conditions as they sought refuge in makeshift wooden structures installed in the playground. The students were exposed to a barrage of elements: unbearable summer heat, blinding, scorching sun, dust and torrential rain.
The 16 classrooms and administration building are now structurally sound and students and staff have just returned to safe, comfortable conditions. “Many view the collaboration to repair the school as symbolic of Haiti’s commitment to work together and invest in the future of its youth,” said Louino Robillard, an alumnus of the school and respected community leader.
Miyamoto Relief engineered and executed the repair and seismic strengthening, nearly all of it carried out by Cite Soleil labor. Modern earthquake-engineering techniques were applied. “This serves as a model for how to retrofit existing buildings in other communities facing these challenges,” said Miyamoto Relief President Dr. Kit Miyamoto. “It is our responsibility to safeguard the lives of children.” Rebuilding the school entirely would have been more expensive and time-consuming, he said.
Through the generous support for this project Miyamoto Relief engineered the repair and seismic strengthening of the school building. Modern earthquake engineering techniques were applied to seismically upgrade the school and nearly all of those efforts were carried out by local Cite Soleil labor.
Private companies that invested in the project include members of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industries, MSC Trading and MSC Plus, Le Flamengo, Panexus, RR Construction, Karibe Hotel, CK Hardware and Colgate, among others. The Japanese government covered remaining costs and replaced the blackboards and benches, while Digicel and Haiti Cheri installed a 30-computer IT lab and solar-power system to support Internet access and computer literacy skills for the students.
Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief and its partners are now working together to raise funds to continue strengthening schools in Haiti, a country that remains at great risk of high-magnitude earthquakes. As the Haitian proverb goes: Men anpil, chay pa lou – Many hands make the work lighter.