HAITI: French working group to organise aid

As the Assises on the reconstruction of Haiti's university system were starting in Montreal last week, French Minister for Higher Education and Research Valérie Pécresse announced in Paris the formation of a working group to organise France's contribution to the aid efforts.

The group, under Professor Michel Laurent, Director-general of the Institute of Research for Development, will focus action on providing places and funding for an extra 700 Haitian students to study in France, distance education, and recasting the Haitian higher education and research system, said Pécresse.

About 1,500 Haitian students study each year in France. Pécresse said in addition the Conference of University Presidents had undertaken to fund the mobility of 100 masters and doctorate students from the academic year starting in September, and that at the request of the Haitian authorities this operation would be complemented by a system of on-site studies financed with the help of local grants.

Among other beneficiaries were 50 students from the Port-au-Prince Institut de Sciences de Gestion Aimé-Césaire who were currently studying in Martinique in the French Antilles; and another 150 who had been offered places at the University of Antilles Guyane in French Guyana, and for whom grants were being urgently organised. Engineering schools in Nancy, in Metropolitan France, were taking 100 Haitian students.

A distance education system was launched in February under a consortium of the AUF, the National Centre of Space Studies, the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, the National Centre for Distance Education and universities including Lyon-1, Lyon-2 and Paris-6. The French institutions had undertaken to provide educational and technical resources free of charge, as well as teacher-training in France for Haitians, and in Haiti by French trainers, said Pécresse.

A master plan had been devised by her ministry and Haitian universities for reconstruction of Haiti's higher education and research system, said Pécresse. A joint declaration committing the two parties to collaborate had culminated in signing up to the United Nations action plan on Haiti's future approved on 31 March.

Pécresse also said a strategic partnership agreement on rebuilding Haiti's higher education and research system would be signed with the Haitian education minister in the coming months.