Meet Bernard, a straight-A student, sixth-grader & Ekselans! scholar at the SAKALA community center in Cite Soleil, a poor urban neighborhood in Haiti. Bernard wants to be an agronomist because he has seen the damage from too many natural disasters & believes the best way to help his country is to be a leader who will protect the environment. The goal of SAKALA's Ekselans! program is to make sure top students like Bernard have everything they need to become the leaders we will all need tomorrow.
If you grew up in a place like the US, where we take free public education as a given, it is hard to imagine the obstacles families face in Haiti. There are few public schools & most students must go to private institutions that charge tuition. Most Haitians have very low incomes - 59 percent live on less than $2 a day. So imagine needing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in school fees. Many parents simply can't. Less than a third of Haitian children make it to secondary school.
Education is a top priority for Haitian parents, but poverty forces many to have to make heartbreaking decisions. Which of their children can go to school, and for how long? This leaves too many children without opportunities, condemned to a life in poverty. For years, SAKALA has helped parents pay school fees, but the goal of its new Ekselans! (Excellence in HaitianCreole) program is to focus on the best & the brightest, to ensure they have the resources to get the best education possible.
SAKALA will provide the scholarships needed to cover tuition, school uniforms, books - whatever is needed for excellent students like Bernard. We do this because we do not want to lose their genius to the streets, where survival too often means joining gangs. So, in the short term, we have more peaceful streets, but we also cultivate the brilliant leaders, scientists and artists we will all need tomorrow. Because who's to say the next Albert Einstein is not growing up right now in Cite Soleil?