Basic Literacy and Vocational Training for Young Adults

Country Profile: Haiti


9,598,000 (2007)

Official Languages

Creole, French

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day)

54% (1990-2005)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 2007)

Total: 57.24%
Male: 59.14%
Female: 55.27%


Programme Overview

Programme TitleBasic Literacy and Vocational Training for Young Adults
Implementing OrganizationDepartment of the Secretary of State for Literacy (DSSL)
Programme PartnersAgencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID), Argentinian partners


The Department of the Secretary of State for Literacy (DSSL) is the national authority responsible for promoting literacy among the people of Haiti. Created in 1994, it implements literacy campaigns, promotes literacy by raising public awareness and carries out surveys in order to compile literacy statistics. The most recent survey of this kind was conducted in 2002-2003. Since 2006, national literacy campaigns have been launched annually by the DSSL. With a view to implementing this project, which forms part of the Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE), the DSSL has received technical assistance from UNESCO and the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID). AECID and Argentinian benefactors are the funding partners.


With a third of its population living on less than US $2 a day and half of the population living on less than US $1 a day (DSNCRP 2007), Haiti is undoubtedly one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. A string of political crises since the 1980s and a chaotic economic situation have contributed to this state of affairs. The unemployment rate is among the highest in the Caribbean sub-region (25% according to the DSNCRP 2007). The country, which once produced and exported fruit (mangos and bananas), coffee, cocoa, sugar cane and manufactured products (this industry once employed more than 100,000 people), is now dependent on imports for more than 50% of its consumption.

Against this background, it is unsurprising that the education system has suffered greatly in recent years. The system, which is dominated by the private sector (nearly 90% of schools are run privately), does not provide access to education for all and is one of the least effective in the continent. Poor governance is frequently cited as one of the main causes of this education problem, but the sector is also suffering from a significant lack of funding.

Over the last few years, the country seemed to be back on the road to growth and stability after the President Jean-Bertrand Aristide stepped down in 2004. However, following hurricanes and adverse tropical weather that have hit the Caribbean hard, Haiti is once again experiencing serious humanitarian problems. In addition to the tragic effects on the population, with more than 800 deaths and one million children affected, the hurricanes also had a severe impact on education infrastructures, with hundreds of schools destroyed. The hurricanes brought about a further shift in priorities in Haiti, and their effects on education will need to be evaluated over the long term.

Already beset by these problems, Haiti was rocked by a powerful earthquake in January 2010, which caused major losses of life and property and paralysed the country for the six months. Its serious economic impact and the fact that education was among the sectors worst affected mean that the literacy and training needs of adults will remain significant over the coming years. There is a danger that the efforts made to increase literacy, which was not regarded as a priority, may slow down. This puts the country at serious risk of failing to achieve its goal of halving the adult illiteracy rate by 2015.


With over 57% of its population aged over 13 unable to read or write (SNA-EPT 2007, Global Monitoring Report 2010), Haiti has one of the lowest literacy rates of any country in the world. This situation spurred various interventions at national level between 2001 and 2003. Unfortunately, these efforts did not lead to the desired outcomes. In the Sud-Est département, 62% of people aged over 14 are illiterate and, within the 14-30 age bracket, more than 30% of people are unable to read or write. In the arrondissement of Bainet in the Sud-Est department (the catchment area of the project) and both of the communes that it comprises, the number of illiterate people exceeds 29,000 out of a population of 100,000. These factors formed the basis for the creation of this project, which was designed and implemented by the Department of the Secretary of State for Literacy (DSSL) together with Spanish partners and UNESCO Haiti.

General objective

One of the areas of strategic action selected by the government is the development of human resources through increased efforts in the area of education and formal and/or non-formal vocational training aimed at young people who are enrolled in schools, non-school-enrolled and/or have dropped out of school and adults. With this aim in sight, the general objective of the project is to help implement a human resources development policy to raise the level of education of the populations, particularly those on low incomes. The strategic priorities selected to this end are (i) providing basic literacy education to illiterate populations, and (ii) providing vocational training in certain small-scale trades to enable beneficiaries to engage in income-generating activities.
Specific objectives

Specific objectives


Selection and training of facilitators


The facilitators of the literacy training sessions are members of communities. The people chosen were those who had the required technical skills and were highly motivated to serve their communities. The 320 trainers and 23 supervisors selected by the DSSL were responsible for facilitating and supervising literacy sessions at the centres. These people were given the training that they needed to accomplish their task.

Training of beneficiaries

Although it addresses the issue of literacy in general, this project is targeted in particular at young adults within the 14-30 age bracket in the arrondissement of Bainet, which has a total population of 6,500. This choice was based on the fact that half of the population of Haiti is aged under 31. Working towards the literacy of this group thus increases the scope for the social and professional reintegration of a very large segment of the population.

Training is delivered to beneficiaries in two stages.

The first stage of this project involves the running of literacy sessions. With the target population already identified, the participants are selected by agreement between the various actors (DSSL, UNESCO, AECID and community representatives). Two major training drives, each lasting four months, have already taken place, and two further sessions will be held in 2010 and 2011. The first literacy drive was implemented at the end of 2007, with 5,000 people taking part. 134 literacy centres were set up and provided with equipment. The approach was based on training modules specially designed by the DSSL to cater to local realities across the area of intervention. The language of instruction is Creole, which is used by the great majority of the population. The second literacy drive, which followed the same approach, was participated in by 1,500 people. This second drive ended in December 2008. Each drive lasted five months and ended with a test.

Literacy courses


The second stage of the project involved building the capacities of the newly-literate people through vocational training. This stage followed a study carried out in partnership with the Institut national de formation professionnelle (INFP). This study, which explored vocational training needs, made it possible to identify three key sectors: building, carpentry and cookery. Accordingly, three syllabuses and 16 learning guides were developed specifically for the purpose of training newly-literate people. Horticulture textbooks were also developed as part of the Pro-Huerta project, a supplementary initiative funded by Argentinian partners. A small group of promoters drawn from among the literacy facilitators was created and trained to support the beneficiaries of the Pro-Huerta programme in the reinforcement of their reading and writing skills. The vocational training stage of the project resulted in the training of more than 1,000 of the newly-literate people who had already received literacy training.

Vocational training


Monitoring and evaluation

A participatory monitoring and evaluation system was developed to enable each stakeholder in the project to have a clearly-defined role and take part in the process. For the literacy stage, the person with chief responsibility for monitoring is the département coordinator, who receives field reports drawn up by the supervisors and support committees in the communes of Bainet and Côtes-de-Fer. While courses are under way, the local coordinator and one member of the support committee (a local body representing the community) visit each centre twice a month and a report is drawn up on each occasion. Monthly summaries of these reports are sent to the central office of the DSSL, UNESCO and AECID via the various focal groups.

Each local or community supervisor is responsible for supervising ten (10) centres. He or she has the job of ensuring that supervision is continuous. To this end, supervisors must visit each centre at least once a week. They carry out systematic and ongoing monitoring of centre operation and facilitator attendance. They check the facilitator attendance register and regularly meet the support committee to share information.

Facilitators are in charge of centres. They are responsible for providing literacy training to the enrolled participants assigned to them by the support committee and the département coordinating body. They keep attendance registers and record absences and late arrivals of participants. They are trained to provide high-quality facilitation and instruction, while also motivating participants. Their duties also include passing on observations to local coordinators via community supervisors. They act on the feedback given to them and use it to improve training provision.


Monitoring and supervision visits are also made by focus groups and the central office (of the support committees). Regular reports are drawn up to assess the situation within each commune as regards the attendance of participants and facilitators and the quality and effectiveness of training provision.

A two-pronged evaluation system has been created. One of the evaluation methods involves setting participants two simple reading, writing and arithmetic tests during each session. These tests are devised by the département coordinator on the basis of the specimen papers provided by the central office. The second method involves evaluation of the project by experts from UNESCO, AECID and the DSSL, institutional evaluation, and evaluation of the objectives, activities, actors and participants. A final external evaluation report is then drawn up and presented at a three-party meeting.

The vocational training courses have a duration of four months. Learners attend classes on up to three days a week. The list of requirements for learners is drawn up by the INFP in partnership with the DSSL. Each training module comprises a minimum of 40 hours of classes. A final assessment is carried out by trainers who have received prior training from INFP staff. During the training period, monitoring is carried out by the INFP and DSSL to establish how well the courses are being run. This monitoring focuses on both the quality of what is taught and also the importance attached by the trainers to the reading and writing skills required of the participants by the project. Three vocational training sessions are to be run as part of this stage of the LIFE project for a total of 500 learners.

The food autonomy strand employs 100 trained promoters, each of whom is given an evaluation kit with which to monitor the progress made by beneficiaries towards the goal of literacy. All beneficiaries are given a horticulture and livestock rearing textbook supplied by Pro-Huerta. Pro-Huerta coordination initiatives are carried out in Haiti every two months in partnership with the IICA.


Despite the difficult circumstances in which it has been implemented, this project has yielded notable results in the communes of Bainet and Côtes-de-Fer.

With a view to sustainable capacity-building, training centres have been set up in both of the communes targeted by the project. These centres, established to host the literacy and vocational training courses initiated by the project, will continue to be run by the DSSL as part of the national literacy campaigns it has been implementing annually since 2006. These facilities should also serve as venues for other cultural and recreational activities including future literacy efforts based on audiovisual methods that have been tailored by the DSSL to cater to the needs of Haiti. These steps should make it possible to gain the support of the local community and authorities and contribute towards the project's sustainability.

The centres have also been used as an environment in which to reinforce the literacy skills acquired by learners. These courses have been attended by a total of 6,500 people, almost 70% of whom are women. Despite the bad weather of 2008 and its disastrous aftermath, participants achieved a success rate of 36% in the final tests of the literacy sessions implemented thus far. The vocational training delivered in the skill areas identified has been taken up by 500 young people. Nearly 750 young people have received horticulture training through the Pro-Huerta project. To help learners translate the knowledge they have gained into income-generating activities, the project will attempt to establish synergies with other projects and NGOs in the domain of microlending. This, in turn, will encourage the creation of small enterprises. Along similar lines, it is also expected that the project will introduce the concepts of risk and disaster prevention through the courses delivered, given the region's extreme level of exposure to phenomena of this kind.

As part of efforts to build national capacities over the medium and long terms, a number of DSSL officers received support from the project, though these efforts were wiped out by the tragic impact of the 2010 earthquake on the DSSL in terms of loss of life and property.. However, it is already envisaged that training in literacy project planning and management will be resumed once the DSSL has relocated to its new premises at the end of 2010.



Despite being a pilot initiative of relatively short duration, this project features a number of sustainable components.

The focus on a group that is vulnerable but also has enormous potential (young people aged between 14 and 30) reflects the desire to make the project last. Literacy and vocational training are seen as ways in which the target populations can identify and capitalise on their potential. The sectors on which the vocational training is focused are very well suited to the local environment and have high income generation potential. To help put theory into practice, the project will analyse and add to avenues of funding for micro-projects, which will make it possible to free the target population from the shackles of poverty and ignorance once and for all.

This project has given scope for a significant level of socio-environmental anchoring. The activities incorporated into the project have enabled the target populations to look at their environment with a critical eye. Haiti is regularly hit by climate-related and environmental disasters. The project has also brought social benefits. Particular attention was paid to the use of Creole in the development of the textbooks and training syllabuses to make the learning process quicker for the target populations and enable them to remember what is taught to them during the training.

On the institutional front, the project has boosted the strength of the DSSL by transferring technical skills, materials and equipment through the various activities developed by the project. The equipment acquired through the project, the infrastructures improved by it and the teaching materials will become the property of the DSSL. This will make the department better equipped for its annual literacy campaigns and training activities aimed at vulnerable groups in Haiti.

A second phase of the project is now in the pipeline. It will consolidate the knowledge acquired by learners during the first phase and provide training for 1,800 young people aged between 14 and 40. Given the difficulties and experiences of the past, this second phase will begin with a better chance of achieving satisfactory results.

Innovative aspects

One of the main innovations of this project is the fact that more attention was paid to the needs of the communities in the development of a literacy curriculum. The modules and textbooks developed through the project are based on local values and the day-to-day lives and aspirations of the local communities. The operating and monitoring/evaluation mechanisms created make it possible to measure learner progress in a participatory fashion. In doing so, they also form a link between technical skills and the implementation of productive activities within the community.

The other main innovation of this project is the establishment of a direct link between literacy and vocational training. Literacy is increasingly seen as a tool that enables communities to reflect and take action to improve their socio-economic circumstances. The link with vocational training prevents loss - through lack of practice - of the reading, writing and arithmetic skills acquired and, at the same time, enables communities to use what they have learned to organise and pursue their income-generating activities in a more effective manner.


The training courses were halted by the deadly hurricanes of 2009. The Sud-Est département was one of the worst-affected areas. The effect of this on the project was that many participants dropped out due to safety concerns. Just under 50% of enrolled participants were able to take part in the final assessments of the second literacy session (December 2008), and only half of this group passed. This result fell short of expectations, but could have been better if the area had not been hit by adverse weather. A special literacy session has been arranged for these beneficiaries, who had to break off their studies after a great deal of effort and for reasons beyond their control, to enable them to complete their training and obtain the certificates they have earned.

Although the destruction caused in the area was limited by comparison with that in the three départements that were hit hardest, the recent earthquake of January 2010 interrupted the vocational training session and the implementation of the other literacy sessions. The trainers and all staff involved in the project nevertheless showed their commitment and sense of responsibility, thanks to which the courses resumed in July 2010.

The other challenges encountered include the difficulty of supervising the activities under way due to the very uneven terrain in the areas of intervention, with a lack of asphalt roads and telecommunications hampered by the generalised lack of electricity. These factors, in addition to the adverse weather conditions, are among the reasons for the low level of participation in the final assessments. The second stage, which focuses on vocational training, began in 2009 and has afforded an opportunity to address these weaknesses. Measures here have included the recruitment within the region of two training supervisors and two local agronomists. The project coordination team has also arranged for additional (catch-up) learning and assessment sessions scheduled for 2009 and 2010 so that as many participants as possible can take part in the vocational training stage that is already under way.

Lessons learned

The main lesson to be learned from this pilot project is that the link between literacy training and the job market in Haiti needs to be strengthened, especially through the creation of job opportunities in the areas of intervention or vocational training as a means of achieving literacy. In a country like Haiti that is constantly striving towards stability, literacy appears to be one of the pillars on which economic and social development must be built.



Eugène Gélardy, Director of Planning at the Department of the Secretary of State for Literacy
Delmas 29, angles Rue samba et Santa
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Telephone: 2512-3724/ 2512/3725
Fax: 2246-9756
Email: alddhi7 (at), Sheahaiti (at)

Gilles Cavaletto, Education Programme Officer
UNESCO Port-au-Prince
19 Musseau, Delmas 60
Telephone: 29400460
Email: g.cavaletto (at)

Last update: 29 June 2011