By BRYN WEESE, Toronto Sun
OTTAWA — Giving young Haitians an “accessible” education system and a role to play in rebuilding the earthquake-ravaged country to steer them away from a life of crime is essential to turn catastrophe into opportunity, says Canada’s Governor General.
So, too, is “decentralizing” the power and resources currently held in the capital Port-au-Prince, which Michaelle Jean warned is “dangerously overpopulated” and has “ignored” the other regions of the country for “a long time.”
Speaking at a University of Ottawa symposium Tuesday aimed at building a more equitable, sustainable and productive Haiti out of the destruction of the Jan. 12 earthquake, Jean recounted to a crowd of about 200 people lessons she learned while visiting her native country three weeks ago.
Chiefly among them is the need to create an “accessible” and “quality” education system.
January’s quake destroyed more than 4,000 schools, including two universities in Port-au-Prince, which represent 89% of the country’s education infrastructure.
Equally important for Jean is to engage young people in the country’s rebuilding efforts, largely to steer them away from taking up a life of crime.
“Over half the Haitian population is under the age of 20,” Jean said. “The danger of seeing a generation of young people falling victim to organized crime and those who prey on human suffering is very real.”
The University of Ottawa’s two-day symposium, “Haiti Today, Haiti Tomorrow: Contrasting Perspectives,” also includes talks by Canadian and Haitian government officials, representatives from the United Nations, non-profit organizations, and academics.
At an international donors conference at the United Nations last week, Canada committed $400 million to Haiti over the next two years, contributing to more than $10 billion raised by the international community.
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