Amongst the phenomenal individuals who attended the #EdTechHaiti2018 this past July, I had the pleasure of speaking with someone who is making a remarkable impact in the realm of education. I speak of none other than Nedgine Paul-Deroly.

A little bit about Nedgine:

Nedgine Paul Deroly is the Founder and Director of “Anseye Pou Ayiti”, a movement that promotes excellent and equal qualities of Education in Haiti. Born in Haiti and later immigrated to the United States, Nedgine remained deeply involved in many activities and initiatives within the Haitian community in Connecticut. As an educator who formed many teachers through organizing different seminars, she liked researching the historical, cultural and socio-economic aspects that contribute to the Haitian educational system. These aspects later become the foundation of the “Anseye Pou Ayiti” movement. With this movement, the 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow, -to name just one of her many distinctions- recruits and trains qualified professionals in all areas, to then place them in schools located in different remote areas in Haiti, namely “Mirebalais”, “Gonaives”, “Gros Morne” etc. In their school communities, these professionals represent more than mere teachers, they form a pipeline through which students become leaders who value collaborative success.

Taking all that you’ve just read into account, it would have been a huge error if I didn’t, at the very least, try to speak to Nedgine about the state of education in Haiti and to pick her brain about the ways in which we can move forward in the ongoing fight to improve education and Haiti as a whole.

After Nedgine delivered a great presentation and spoke on a panel focusing on what it looks like for technology to be integrated into new ways of teaching, I found a quiet corner in the midst of all the hustle and bustle where Nedgine shared her thoughts on how different elements come together to affect our education system. 3 particular elem

ents mentioned by Nedgine are the 3 assets that her organization, Anseye Pou Ayiti, is founded on. They are culture, community, and custom.

The exchange began with Nedgine clarifying the use of the aforementioned elements. I asked Nedgine about what effect these “3 C’s” could potentially have on the system of education in Haiti. Here’s what she answered:

“I think it [ Culture, Community, Custom] specifically sets us up to know where we are and where we’re going. I actually don’t think that right now we have a solid foundation on which to use really powerful tools like technology. And so I think that when culture, customs, and community are first identified, respected, and actually appreciated, you’re only excelling the use of all the technology that can help us get to where we’re going; …if you know your culture, if you know your identity, if you know where you come from, and the power of community, you’re actually able to fix much more realistic and ambitious objectives. And then from there, figure out what tools will help you get there. So I think we actually have to do that step first, and then the technology will help us get there faster.”

From what Nedgine says, we can clearly make the argument that the “foundation” she speaks of is one having to do with self-knowledge first, and foremost. She makes a great point! It’s truly necessary for us to face the truth about who we are as Haitians and what state our society is in right now. Unless we can examine the circumstances around us, there is no way that we will be able to use practical and useful tools for our benefit even when they are accessible to us. Examination leads to identification; once we can all place ourselves in a position where we can really assess Haiti’s system of education (whether it be through quantitative or qualitative data) we will be able to identify the most distinct tools that we can apply to move forward. In doing so, we will have satisfied Nedgine’s call to action which is focused on identifying, respecting, and appreciating the 3 C’s. Are we prepared to take on that challenge? We absolutely should be!

Another challenge that Nedgine spoke about was equality and equity with regards to education. Being that “Anseye Pou Ayiti” contributes a great deal to this arena, it was really interesting to hear her thoughts on what true equality might look like in Haitian education and how it can be achieved.

“ We need to have a conversation about the fact that the bar is set differently for different kids. And right now….different kids have access to different resources. We’re not asking the first question that says ‘why were they set up differently, to begin with?’ The system is not broken. The system is actually doing exactly what it was designed to do. And so we need to start thinking differently about that system change. We talk about equal educational opportunity. What that looks like for me is that every kid has access to excellence. We’re not yet at a point where we’re defining what excellence means. So I think once we’ve defined it, then we can start to have real conversations about the fact that no matter where you are, equity looks like giving those who need more…more!”

While on the topic of excellence, Nedgine and I began talking about the standards that she would love to see Haiti meet and surpass. And so I inquired about what the gold-standard of education might be. The talk about who’s leading in the domain of education is not new and I was really curious to hear what she had to say about what systems that are set in place in other countries that Haiti might be able to follow in order to climb up the ranks. Surprisingly, she didn’t mention a country, per se. Instead, Nedgine focused on the idea of investing in our local assets. What might they be? Well, our people of course.

“We can follow the example of those who’ve figured out what their local assets are. If we know what our local assets are, technology will only help us use that and get to a point where everyone has access to a quality education. Everyone talks about Finland and other places; I think what makes them great is not so much the test results they’re getting or the technology they’re using; It’s because they’ve invested in people. And I think that one of the best things that technology helps us do is realize that everyone could have a tablet or a laptop or a cell phone, no matter who you are…And I think the other piece is that we need to invest in people and not just tools. “

Wow! If that didn’t hit a nerve, I would suggest you read that quote one more time. Nedgine makes a great point about where we are infusing the resources we have, whatever they may be. We need to begin investing in people. I think EMO, as well as Anseye Pou Ayiti, is doing an exceptional job with this. Investing in parents, teachers, and students is just the tip of the iceberg.

Before we parted ways, I had to hear Nedgine’s outlook on the role that mentorship can play during what we are calling the “EdTech Revolution”.

“Mentorship is such a powerful example of people investing in people. I think mentorship is something that says ‘I’m not just paying it forward. I realized just how much I’ve received and I want to be able to use those tools to help the next generation.’ I think, in many ways, our education system, here in Haiti, makes us selfish. And so mentorship and coaching are actually helping us rebuild the fabric of collective leadership which is what made us mighty in the first place.”

This statement holds so much weight and sheds light on what we should all be striving for. In EMO’s case, mentorship is present at every layer of this organization’s operations. There’s something to be said for the ability to see what a system of education is missing and taking the initiative to supply that absent component. In doing so, we show the next generation that individuals who look like them and walked the same streets they did, knows the struggles they’ve experienced, is willing to use the knowledge they’ve received to elevate the standard of excellence in a place we all call home.

To Nedgine and the entire staff of Ansye Pou Ayiti, I say, keep up the phenomenal work!

Mitsuka Attys is a blogger for EMO-HAITI