Home away from home
|President Abdoulaye Wade welcoming Haitians students|
“Welcome to the home of your ancestors,” declared Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade in October 2010, welcoming 163 young Haitians to the campuses of may leading Senegalese universities, including the School Polytechnique of Tièce, the Faculty of Agronomy of Bambay and Cheikh Anta Diop University in downtown Dakar. “Your ancestors left here by physical force; you have returned through moral force,” he added. The Associated Press reported Wade’s initiative to offer free housing and 163 scholarships for young Haitians to study at Senegal’s largest universities, in the wake of the of the Jan. 12 cataclysmic earthquake, met harsh criticism at home. Senegal’s national media branded the project grandiose and egocentric amid the country continuing struggles with poverty, rising unemployment and occasional student demonstrations. Yet, Wade maintained, the young Haitians were neither strangers nor refugees, but members of the Senegalese family.
|Recipient of Rwandan scholarship|
Although controversial, the decision did not prevent Rwanda from following Wade’s lead. The Rwandan government offered Six Scholarships for Haitian students to pursue their education at the National University of Rwanda beginning in January 2011. Haitian Minister of Youth, Sports and Civic action, Evans Lescouflair, recently visited the country and met with James Musoni, the minister of local government in anticipation of the students’ arrival.
|Recipients of Senegalese scholarships|
Most recently, Benin took turn offering an additional 110 scholarships to Haitians eager to pursue a higher education. Le Nouvelliste, a leading Haitian newspaper, reported qualified candidates would leave Haiti be between Jan. 3 and 6, 2011 to study, among many tracks, Business Administration, Biological, environmental, technological and social sciences. Students awarded the scholarships later this month would need to obtain 65 percent or better on the qualifying exams that took place on Thursday Dec 23.
Benin’s offer was not the first of its kind made to the Haitian government. In fact, the two countries have been working jointly on similar projects even before the devastating earthquake. The Nouvelliste indicated Haitians officials were reluctant to accept Benin’s offer due to prior complaints of neglect and hardship by Haitians students currently studying there on scholarships. However, Lescouflair accepted the offer after receiving official written confirmation from the Benin officials guaranteeing shelter, food and education for the winning candidates.
|Students applying for Benin scholarships|
Haitian officials contended, these encouraging programs, although far from perfection, will help contemporaries of African ancestors invest in the future of their states plagued by an alarming illiteracy rate and a serious shortage of competent intellectuals to lead future generations.
Contextualizing the projects, "We are giving the rest of the world a lesson in humanity. Senegal has shown that it's in the hearts of the poor that you can find the gift of generosity," said historian Iba Der Thiam, vice president of the National Assembly. "A country that is neither rich nor developed has agreed to share the little it has with its brothers," he added.