By Ruolz Ariste
Among the many calamities that struck Haiti recently, any achievement that can cheer up the Haitian people and somewhat boost their energy is worth mentioning and sharing. Such undertakings are typically identified in the sports, arts and entertainment sectors, among athletes, artists and singers reaching top levels. In some cases, individuals in politics can be added to this list as well.
Showcasing the success story
In the education sector, one notable achievement is the Institut des Sciences, des Technologies et des Études Avancées d’Haïti (ISTEAH) based in Génipailler/Milot, Haiti. The 2014 accreditation awarded to ISTEAH is specifically for university programs of specialized higher studies diploma (DESS), Master’s degree and Philosophiae Doctor (Ph.D.). ISTEAH’s is the first accredited doctoral training institution in Haiti.
Founded by the Reflection and Action Group for a New Haiti (GRAHN-Monde), ISTEAH maintains a network of 23 national partners and is supported by seven core international partners. ISTEAH has graduated 76 students at the DESS level, 33 students at the Master level and 8 at the doctoral level. Currently, more than 600 are enrolled in various programs, 25% of which are at the doctoral level. The students reside in the different communes of the country. They are grouped together on the main campus in Génipailler/Milot, with satellites in Port-au-Prince, Cayes, Hinche, Jacmel and Saint-Marc. Students pay a nominal fee as their portion of the tuition.
Recently, the Institute for Data Valorization (IVADO), an internationally respected and well-known Montreal-based think-thank in Artificial Intelligence, offered scholarships to four ISTEAH students at the master’s or doctoral level. The scholarships will allow recipients to carry out supervised research internships at the Université de Montréal, Polytechnique Montréal and HEC Montréal in 2022.
The names behind this success story
The institute is led by Professor Samuel Pierre, Chairman of the Board of Directors, full professor of computer engineering at École Polytechnique de Montréal, Director since 1999 of the Mobile Networking and Computing Research Laboratory (LARIM) and of the Mobile Networking and Computing Research Group (GRIM). Dr. Pierre, a first generation Haitian immigrant, is the recipient of several honors, the most recent being from Engineers Canada’s Gold Medal in June 2021 and winner of the 2020 Grand Prix of Quebec Order of Engineers (OIQ) for Professional Excellence. His deep involvement in the Haitian education sector shows that one can significantly contribute to Haiti’s development while residing abroad.
The faculty – more than 225 professors now – come from both local and foreign universities. Some of them live in Haiti and actively participate in the education provided by ISTEAH. However, the vast majority reside mainly in Canada, the United States, France, Belgium, and Switzerland. Some come to teach on site for a few weeks while others deliver their course from their place of residence through videoconferencing. This model has been in place way before the COVID-19 pandemic, which is trailblazing for Haiti.
As a non-profit academic institution, the operation of the institute relies mainly on the volunteer work of these overseas professors and managers (Haitian diaspora and Haitianophiles), as well as on the generosity of donors who support its mission.
The Haitian media and diaspora will not miss the opportunity to draw the attention of the general society on any Haitian connection that elite athletes, singers or artists might have. Whether they are born overseas from mixed parents (Haitian and non-Haitian), from both Haitian parents, first-and-a-half immigrants who leave Haiti as children, or second or third generation of immigrants, the Haitian community will identify these Haitian-Americans and Haitian-Canadians as Haitians. Haitian media appropriates all the pride that comes with these persons’ achievements.
Examples include Naomi Osaka in tennis, Jason Derulo in music, Dominique Anglade in Canadian politics, as leader of the Quebec Liberal party. For comprehensive role models for the younger generation, it is also relevant to showcase our elites in education, health, law or any other sectors in the economy.
Applying the ISTEAH model elsewhere in Haiti
The international aspect of ISTEAH should be noted via its seven core partners: Dartmouth College (USA), École Polytechnique de Montréal (Canada), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland), Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA-Lyon, France), University of Strasbourg (France), University of Quebec in Montreal (UQÀM, Canada), University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières (UQTR, Canada), Télé-Université (Canada).
This idea or variants of it can be applied elsewhere. The joint PhD program (between Université d’État d’Haiti, des Antilles et de Nîmes) is a case in point. Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais operated by Partners in Health (Zanmi Lasante) is another one. In these examples of effective international cooperation, the volunteering aspect and local participation are of utmost importance.
Many more similar programs, not projects, are needed throughout the country — not only in education and health, but also in the business sectors such as agriculture, energy, transportation, engineering and others. These business undertakings would be labelled “social enterprises” and part of the net profits generated might be redistributed to the neediest in Haitian society.
This model is fundamentally different from the traditional international aid, which is harmful to Haiti.
Let’s hope that the country will find some form of stability, will put an end to institutional corruption, will embrace good governance and will promote local production that will generate jobs, including high-skilled, high-paying positions. This is a requirement if we are to improve the standard of living of the population, stop the brain drain, and keep highly-trained individuals in this country in dire need of its human capital.