Pèpè Education (reprint from Beyond Borders)

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Pèpè Education (reprint from Beyond Borders)

Post by admin » Fri Jun 20, 2003 3:50 am

Pèpè Education (June 2002)

An interview with Eddy Sterling, coordinator for adult education programs for Beyond Borders' partner organization, the Limyè Lavi Foundation.

BB: What connection is there between pèpè clothing and formal education in Haiti?

ES: Much of Haiti's education tradition emerged not from our own culture or our way of life, but from abroad. The books and teaching materials and pedagogical approach we use in most schools were essentially developed in Europe for Europeans. More recently the Protestant churches and missions have taken a larger role in education in Haiti. But they have mostly followed the tradition already established long ago that is based on the memorization irrelevant information in a foreign language. Like pèpè clothes, we have accepted this approach to education because it was offered to us freely; but it isn't our own, and instead of
freeing us to be who we are meant to be, it constrains us and impoverishes us.

BB: So language is part of the problem with education in Haiti.

ES: Language is an essential element of culture, and in probably about 90% of our schools we are still not really free to use our own language. Students are forced to use French, the language imposed on us by our former colonial slave masters. The fact that we are trying to teach and learn in a language that is not our own has a big impact on the quality of education. Most teachers speak French so poorly themselves that they can't converse with their students in French and don't allow them to ask questions or participate in discussions. This approach handicaps the whole educational process. For example, during a math lesson where word problems are presented, students may be able to easily do the math involved, but because they can't make sense of the French in which the problem is presented, they are lost.

BB: Has there been any progress establ
ishing native-language education in Haiti?

ES: There has been some progress. The government recently offered students the opportunity to take the national exams in either French or Creole, for example. However, the attitude of many teachers and parents toward this kind of change is very negative. They've learned to discredit their own language, to think that it is worthless. Students are reluctant to take their tests in Creole because they know that the teachers hired to grade the exams still hold on to these old attitudes and will grade them low even if they have mastered the material.

BB: In your work you focus on adult literacy training and education. How does your work respond to this problem of pèpè education?

ES: This old education system we inherited has left most adults illiterate and believing that Creole isn't even a real language, just a deformed version of French. As a result, most Haitians not only have to bear the stigma of being illiterate, they are made to believe that t
hey can't even speak a "real" language. They end up feeling like they aren't even human. Training adults to read and write in their own language liberates them. It is a way for people who have always been excluded to be integrated into society and to feel for the first time like they are of value. Even if they are still very poor, the fact that they can now read and write in their own language has liberated them and made them feel like they are human beings.

This interview first appeared on http://www.beyondborders.net

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On Pèpè education

Post by admin » Fri Jun 20, 2003 4:24 am

Pèpè education... that's a good term. Pèpè clothing is clothing from abroad, handed sometimes freely as a gesture of charity, but most often paid for at several times the cost since it consists mostly of donations. Clothing that covers your body, but does not at all reflect the local culture. Clothing that sometimes reflects slogans written in a language other than the native one, values different than traditional ones, and which subliminally makes you desire the brands and fashions of a world that is not your own, conditions your mind to seek handouts and look for hope and significance elsewhere, instead of discovering the possibilities that exist locally. In fact, it's clothing that leads you to devalue what is local in favor of what comes from abroad. If the foreigner makes it, it must be better. And if everyone aspires to "be like Mike," why not us?

Substitute the word "education" for "clothing" in the above, and youll get a coherent picture of the effects of formal education in Haiti on the minds of most who have received it. Show me the formally educated Haitian, and especially one who attended missionary schools, who did not at some point look around and felt trapped by the perceived subhuman development of Haitian Life. What does he see? Poverty, and that's bad. Mendicity, and that's bad. Vodou, and that's bad. Superstitions, and that's bad. Dark skin and "kinky hair", when the literature he's been exposed to speaks plainly of beauty as that of fair skin, blue eyes, and flowing silky blonde hair; when he's been thoroughly indoctrinated in Christianity of which all the icons, images, saints, apostles, even God-self are presented to him overwhelmingly in Western European traditions. Most damning of all, the dialect or "patois" that he speaks generally, not a respectable way of expressing himself in high society or any situation which reflects a semblance of formality as commonplace as that of courtship.

The education many of us received in Haiti surely made us aware of the fact that the manner of speaking is far more valuable than the truth of what you say. When someone speaks Haitian, the people focus on the message. When that same person speaks French, the focus shifts to his eloquence, his mastery of a language that is in fact foreign to the overwhelming majority of Haitian people. [By that, it must be said that I mean "everyone living in Haiti", since "the Haitian people" has come to mean different things to different individuals.] And if a Haitian does not master the pronunciation of the French sounds "e" and "u", were he to speak French perfectly otherwise, he'd still be ridiculed and find it difficult to aspire to a high-level position in society. Never mind that the French sounds "e" and "u" are not integral to Haitian Creole phonemics, which have shaped the early development of Haitian brains. Neither are the Spanish "r" and "j". Haitians are keenly aware of the test word "perejil" used in 1937 by the sanguinary armed forces of Dominican madman Rafael Trujillo to bring to the surface the Haitianity of dark-skinned individuals living in Dominican territory before killing tens of thousands of them and throwing their remains in the river on our borders, appropriately named "Massacre River". But how many of us are aware of the many potentials our own society has systematically destroyed due to the inability of many issued of the peasant class to articulate two phonemes which are not inherent in their maternal language?

For this, yes, our pèpè education IS to blame, because it has made most of us believe in the superiority of the French language when compared to our own. In fact, we claim the French language as "our own". Never mind that it is spoken only by the elite, a very small percentage of the Haitian population.

Why does this remind me of the pèpè T-shirt worn by a poor Haitian kid, that said: "F*** ME"? Unwittingly, this T-shirt spoke eloquently of the TRUTH, of the reality of living in peasant-class Haiti. Our pèpè education has always been based on an educational system which was developed not with Haitians in mind, and certainly not oriented to the development of our local resources and the appreciation of our cultural values. We learned that Christopher Columbus "discovered" America, we learned that the natives of our land lived like "pure savages" off the natural bounty of the land, that they had never assimilated "any work ethics", and consequently died quickly "due to their very fragile nature", when work was imposed on them by the very Catholic wealth seeking Spaniards. We learned to love King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. We learned to be grateful to Christopher Columbus who put "Hispaniola" on the map and consequently made our very existence possible. We learned of the goodness of heart of "Las Casas", a Catholic priest who pitied the Indians who had been succumbing at alarming rates and successfully pleaded for the import of black slaves from Africa, before the Indians all died off. While it was not explicitly said, it was implicitly taught that Las Casas was a living saint. We took satisfaction in knowing that the black race was of a sturdier stock, that we coud sustain the rigors of slavery when the Indians, ha! they merely died off. While we learned of the severity of the depletion of the Indian population, it was not branded as a genocide, just an unfortunate set of circumstances, and surely we were not made aware of the fact that millions of Africans never even reached the shores of newly discovered America. They died during the Middle Passage, but why bother our impressionable minds with such inconvenient facts?

Well, this is just at the very beginning of our Haitian History, and I have not addressed our Catechism (that is our endoctrination), our "Histoire Sainte" (that is the History of Holiness), our Ancient History (that is the History of the Kings and Knights of Europe), our French Literature where we learned the value of form over function, because we are required to write weekly essays about French literary giants whose works are often NOT available to us, just compilations of what other people said about them... and in any case, the essence of what you write does not matter nearly as much as the manner in which you write it, the extent to which you have mastered the French language, and your ability to impress by quoting from Lamartine or Hugo, Voltaire or Rousseau, without the impractical requirement of any direct knowledge or access to their works)... and so forth and so on.

What is inherently missing from our pèpè education is the civic component of any true education, that is to LOVE and RESPECT your country. This would go way beyond "our heroes defeated their armies" to a real appreciation of our language, our varied musical forms, the spirituality of our people, the respect of our environment which would at least make us aware of when we are destroying it, and the value of developing our human and physical resources as opposed to the perceived desirability of every import, every brand or fashion originating elsewhere. Real education would focus on broadening our horizons for living in Haiti. Pèpè education focuses on devaluing our identity for searching another one outside of Haiti.

Guy S. Antoine

Pitit Ginen

Post by Pitit Ginen » Sat Jun 21, 2003 6:19 am

Onè pou lakou-a,

Kisa yon nonm ka di apre koze konsekan sa-yo ke Guy fin met atè la-a? Guy di tout sa k te gen pou di sou zafè edikasyon pèpè sa-a. Li fè bonjan analiz ki pa kite yon nonm ak okenn kesyon sou kijan kolon-yo te e kontinye_malerezman_ ap jwe nan tèt jèn lakay nou. Zafè "listwa sent", "katechis", "literati fransè" ak jan kolon-yo anseye pwòp listwa peyi nou, mwen pa kwè ke se de bagay ke leta ann Ayiti entèdi nan lekòl nou-yo. Kidonk, pwoblèm-nan rete ankè.

Pi gwo moso-a : se kijan n' ap rive denannantize tèt konpatriyòt nou-yo? Eddy mansyone pou nou kouman sosyete ayisyèn-nan ap fè rezistans devan kreyòl ke dirijan nou-yo vle fè pran plas-li anndan lekòl. Se yon pwoblèm ki serye anpil, kesyon rezistans sa-a. Mwen pale ak anpil konpatriyòt nan dyaspora-a ki derefize tande koze kreyòl nan lekòl sa-a.

Pèmèt mwne rakonte yon listwa pèsonèl ki pral montre gwo obstak ki genyen sou chimen lang nou-an. Nan pr
eparasyon maryaj mwen, mwen ta p chache yon kat denvitasyon ki gen fote moun nwa. Apre-m fin fè letou Ottawa ak Monreyal, mwen blije chwe Boston. Mwen vin rive nan yon boutik Ayisyen ki vann tout bagay pou maryaj. Mwen te arive jwenn jan de kat mwen ta p chache-a nan magazen sa-a. Men lè-m di mèt boutik-la ki
ta p vann mwen kat-yo ke-m mwen gen panse pa-m ke m' ap mete sou kat-yo e panse sa-a an kreyòl, yon tikal ankò eleman sa-a te riske banm yon kalòt, tèlman msye te estomake lè-m pale-l de kreyòl-la : <kote-w soti ak koze kat maryaj an kreyòl sa-a!!!. W FOU>>, se konsa pwopriyetè boutik sa-a te pale avè-m. La tou, pou msye demaske-m nan magazen li-an, li miltipliye pri kat-yo nou te gentan fin negosye-a pa dis(10). Kifè-m te blije al fè kat sa-yo nan lòt magazen nwa ki te nan menm zòn-nan.

Mwen rakonte ti listwa sa-a pou-m montre kijan gen konpatriyòt nou ki gen yon pozisyon ekstemis sou dosye kreyòl sa-a. Mwen gen de zanmi ki pa vle tande pawòl sa-a. Pou anpil kreyòl-la p
a bay ouvèti sou peyi etranje. Si Chinwa oubyen Japonè te wè-l konsa, yo te fenk koumanse nan trennen. Pase, mwen pa kwè gen anpil lòt moun apa Chinwa-yo ki pale Chinwa. Poutan, nou wè kisa y' ap remèt nan monn-nan. Malgre yon nonm pran ekzanp sa-yo w paka konvenk pèsonn. Kesyon-an rete : èske yon jou nou panse ke kreyòl ap fin pa enpoze-l nan sosyete nou-an? Si repons-lan se ta Wi! Se kijan yon chanjman konsa pral rive fèt? pase se preske 99% moun nan sosyete nou-an ki gen prejije sou zafè kreyòl-la. Eske jenerasyon ka p goumen jodi-a pou-l enpoze chanjman sa-a ap kite yon eritaj ki solid ase pou travay-la kontinye? Kesyon pou-n debat-yo anpil(...)

Sèl sa-m ka di, si gen plizyè gouvènman ki kontinye sipòte refòm ki koumanse nan lekòl-yo e si mouvman alfa-a rive blayi-li nan tout peyi-a, se si kreyòl-la ap fin pa pran fòs nan sosyete-a. Mwen panse li enpòtan tou pou REKA ak lòt òganizasyon konsa ki anndan peyi-a kontinye fè presyon sou dirijan-yo ann Ayiti pou yo bay kreyòl-la plas-li to
ut bon vre nan sosyete-a nan piblye jounal ofisyèl gouvènman-an ansanm ak tout dokiman ki sot Lachanm, nan ministè-yo nan lang kreyòl. Se youn nan meyè mwayen pou mantalite-yo fin pa abitye ak reyalite kreyòl-la nan peyi-a. An nou espere ke anpil jèn ap fin pa antre nan lespri chanjman sa-a e deside kontinye travay ka p fèt jodi-a. Pase, si nou pa rive gen jèn-yo sou kote nou, nou riske chwe nan misyon sa-a. Alòske nou paka pèmèt tèt nou pou nou pran echèk nan misyon sa-a. Se lavni peyi nou menm ki an kesyon. Nou pral blije kreyatif sou kesyon sa-a. Men, se ki sipò refòm ki vle fè kreyòl-la enpoze-l nan lekòl nou-yo resevwa bò kote klas entèlektyèl ayisyen-an? M' ap panse a pwofesè-yo sitou. Si gen kèk zanmi ki gen enfòmasyon nan sans sa-a vin ede-n wè pi klè nan koze sa-a!

Pitit Ginen.

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