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News from Haiti:

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Commentary: Thank God for the good nuns of Haiti!
Published on June 26, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean Hervé Charles

Since the advent of Francois Duvalier into power in 1957, the destruction of the institutions in Haiti has been so pervasive that thank God we still have the good nuns who, withdrawn from partisan politics, have concentrated on turning the young girls and the young boys into civilized citizens during this window of opportunity of 18 years of their lives.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now.  He can be reached at
It will be exactly 60 years on September 22, 2017 since the descent into hell of Haiti accelerated in earnest. There was hope and an opportunity to redress 30 years later, on February 7, 1986, when the dictator’ son, Jean Claude was booted out of power. The democracy that descended upon Haiti has been in name only not in fact. I have said in a previous essay that the structural underpinnings of the Haitian society rest on three pillars: the Catholic Church, the army and voodoo.

Haitian voodoo as an institution has not built through the ages one single school of academic learning in the country. The Haitian army was destroyed by Jean Bertrand Aristide allegedly under orders from the American government. The Catholic Church indigenized by Francois Duvalier is still searching for its mission of nation building. Again, thank God we have the good nuns who are fulfilling the transitory role of passing the bread of education to Haitian youngsters, in particular the young girls.

When Haiti acquired its independence in 1804, it was such a bête noire galeuse, that the entire world shunned its people and its government. Only the Vatican in 1864 agreed to negotiate a Concordat with the black nation in sending priests, nuns and Christian brothers to educate the pupils of the new country. The Haitian government paid its own way in funding a special seminary in Brittany, France, that was dedicated for missionary works in Haiti. The Catholic Church became the official religion of the state with bishops with the ranking of government ministers.

As such the good nuns of St Joseph of Cluny and the Brothers of Christian Education transformed generations and generations of Haitian citizens into well educated genteel ladies and gentlemen who President Roosevelt some 50 years later chided: “come and see those niggers who speak French like educated people”.

This academic formation was supposed to be pursued and continued into the hinterland in the rural areas. Francois Duvalier put a stop to that adventure in injecting politics into the Catholic Church. Divided into the small church and the high church, the French Breton priests were booted out of the country, leaving the indigenous priests to take the reins of the institution without the means and the skills to carry out such a mandate enshrined in the Concordat: educating all the children of the nation.

The Christian Brothers did play their role in the capital and in several towns of Haiti, but they have not been as successful as the nuns in rejuvenating the institution with indigenous new breed from the country who would take over the role of the departing French teachers. Thank God the good nuns are reproducing themselves by the hundred, intervening in the ghettos and in the hinterland, producing young Haitian boys and girls who seem to come out of any high class boarding school of any industrialized country in the world.

It is the business of the state to ensure that education is provided as freely as possible to all the people of the land. This mandate has been neglected for the past 60 years by past governments; as such we have in Haiti two generations of people who are mainly street vendors, shoe shiners or nomad transients to Chile, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, The Bahamas and Florida.

Will providence usher into Haiti enough good nuns to fulfill the role of teachers to the children of the country? I have made the proposition to the bishops of Haiti to enter into an agreement of a public-private partnership whereby selected priests who are willing to work in the rural sector of the country will be trained in social work and paid a special bonus for providing 40% of their time to nation building roles such as helping to bring in nuns and Christian brothers for the business of educating the rural citizens.

It was five years ago such a letter was sent; I am still waiting for an answer from the Cardinal and the bishops! In the meantime thank God we have the good nuns, they are passing the good bread of education to thousands of young girls who, I am predicting, will have a leading role in taking Haiti out of its morass!

For those opposing the rebuilding of the Haitian army, the reconstruction of the country will not happen until the three pillars, the Catholic Church, voodoo and the army is well entrenched and working in tandem in the business of nation building in the country. The Catholic church through the education of the young boys and the young girls in particular in the ghettos and in the rural world; voodoo as an instrument perpetuating the cultural mythology built from tolerance, artistic creation, self-sustenance and resilience and the army as the institution that will provide the glue of appurtenance, pride, motivation, and bearer of the light on the hill for all people in the world seeking a higher mission destined by God for their being on this earth!
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