Education is the Number One focus of parents in the Sassier community. Even though more than half of them cannot read or write, they are willing to sacrifice much to provide their children with the opportunity to break out of the cycle of poverty by getting a good education.
In most of Haiti, the state of education is deplorable. Reliable studies indicate that only 50% of school aged children are actually in school. Of those children who begin school, only 35% reach 5th Grade and only 4% reach 10th Grade. Most teachers are not well-trained, few students have books and many children have difficulty learning because they come to school hungry. Seven years ago, this was also the situation in Sassier.
In the 2003-2004 school year, the Parish school educated about 200 students from Kindergarten to 4th grade in the Church and an adjacent building. The teachers were dedicated, but poorly trained. Students had no books and no lunches were served.
Beginning in 2004, after a new 8 classroom school was constructed, an additional grade has been added each year. By 2008, the school building had 20 classrooms. In the current school year, the Parish School, now known as Institution Pierre Toussaint, has 851 students from Preschool to 11th grade, all of whom have school books and enjoy a hot lunch every day. An additional 100 children receive early primary education at two remote locations in the area.
Zanmi Sasye has worked closely with the parents and St Jean Baptiste Parish to provide the “Gift of Education” to the young people of the Sassier Community. Working in collaboration with the Office of Black Ministry of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, the Friends of College Pierre Toussaint, Sacred Heart Parish in Winnetka, IL , Kindermissionswerk, and the Association for Schools in Hispaniola (Verein fuer Schulen im Hispaniola), quality education is now available to almost 1000 children in the Sassier area.
The school has already outgrown the 20 classroom school built over the past 7 years. Thanks to the generosity of the Association for Schools in Hispaniola and the German Government, an additional school building is under construction in Sassier and should be ready for the September 2011 opening of the next school year. Funds have already been committed for a new primary school in the village of Voldrogue, about 45 minutes walk from Sassier.