This post is updated from a post we published four years ago in May 2018.  The ‘Education Triangle’ is a universal truth.  What was true in 2018 remains true today, and it is the same truth that existed at Plato’s Academy in 387 B.C., and it will be true as we colonize Mars in the future.

Having raised four children – five when I include my nephew who we were blessed to have in our household for five years – I have much experience with education… education in the home, education in school, and education outside of the home and school.  One concept that was firmly set in my mind by 1987 when our nephew left the household was the ‘education triangle.’

In 1987, nephew Sean was 17; Nick, 12; Stef, 8; Brad, 4; and Jesse, 3 years old.  Each of our children experienced education in his own way with varying levels of achievement and results.  While each child’s experience was unique, the education triangle remains constant:  three individuals are critical to the learning process:

the student/child
the parent(s)/guardian(s) and
the teacher/school

  • If all three are actively and intimately involved in the learning process, the chance of the student’s success in the classroom and acquiring knowledge is high.
  • If two of the three are actively involved, the chance is significantly less… better if the student is one of the two involved, but far less if the student is not involved and motivated.
  • If only one of the three is actively involved, the chance of learning and acquiring knowledge is greatly reduced, even if the student is the one who is actively involved and motivated to learn.

That is what I learned as a father, and it will remain true forever.  One needs to understand and acknowledge that truism as we work with our school in Haiti, Lekòl Pye Atè, The Barefoot School.

About the Barefoot School

Although the United Nations and governments around the world – including Haiti – guarantee education as a human right for children, the reality is often quite different.  Education comes with a price, a price that few people in the gang-ruled ghetto of Citè Soleil can afford.  We managed to fund 20 children in 2017-2018, but raising money to support the effort was difficult and became impossible.  Earlier this year, our friend Justin and his associates at the Guepard Boxing Club [GBCCS] came up with an idea to create a school for the poorest of the poor.  They named the school Lekòl Pye Atè, The Barefoot School and we opened the doors in February.

working with books

The Barefoot School has six grades.  We originally used another school building from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM five days weekly.  We’ve since rented our own building, so we have access 24/7 which opens many other opportunities for us.  We offer our students a meal at the conclusion of every school day.

Although attendance has approached 300 students, approximately 150 students completed initial term testing.  Sadly, daily attendance tends to reflect the level of street violence on a particular day:  when gunfire echoes through the streets, attendance is down.

In 2017/2018, we spent $250 to send each child to school.  That included tuition, uniform, books, testing, and other fees.  Our annual budget at the Barefoot School is approximately $20,000 (this does not include the daily meal).  Our largest expense – approximately $8,000 – is for books.  Simple math demonstrates the economies we bring to our school.

Children attend our school at no cost.  We do believe that education is a human right, God-given and inalienable.  With 24/7 access to our own building, we plan to expand our services when the next academic year commences in September to include adult education.  As we continue our discussion on the Education Triangle, you will see how important this becomes…

The Learning Environment

Here’s a picture of my elementary school – Pomeroy School, Pittsfield, Massachusetts – long since converted to an apartment building.  Below it is Fairmount Elementary School in St. Peters, Missouri where my kids went to school in the 1980s.

Pomeroy Elementary School
Fairmount Elementary School

Here are pictures from the Barefoot School.

Gail Rongen with Touta in 2016… this is the building we rent today
Barefoot School Classroom

I’m certain you can see the difference.

building new benches and tables

Two plus two equals four (2+2=4) in Haiti just as it does in St. Peters, Missouri or Pittsfield, Massachusetts but the school environment at Pomeroy and Fairmount – like your local schools – is far more conducive to learning than the school environment at the Barefoot School.  Still, our teachers teach, and the children learn as best they can.  When we move into the new building, we need benches and tables.  We were able to raise funds to go the extra mile to build tables and benches that will be more comfortable for the students with the belief that it will create a better learning environment.

Back to the Triangle

Go back to the education triangle.  Mrs. tVM and I spent countless hours at the kitchen table helping our children with their school work and encouraging them to complete it.  I say with 100% certainty that not a single child at the Barefoot School who we support HAS a kitchen table because few if any live in a ‘home’ that has more than a single room, which is not much larger than the office I work from in my 10-room house.

Let’s go another step.  Few of these children live with two parents, some live on the streets.  Few of the parents attended more than six years of school and most cannot read or write.  Mathematics is as alien to the parents as hieroglyphics is to you and me.

When I ask GBCCS manager Justin Ricot how many of the parents completed at least six years of formal education, he responds, “Ninety-eight percent of the parents never went to school.”  Though you may question the absolute accuracy of his answer, you get the point… most parents of our students can offer little educational support to their children.

Against the Odds

these kids want to learn

The odds are stacked against these kids even before they walk into the school IF they have the opportunity to attend school, which is our intention here at the Barefoot School: to make the opportunity available to as many children as possible.  These children need our help.  Education WILL lead people out of poverty.  My friends in Haiti have a very steep hill to climb, but they remain committed to the task.

Report Cards

As the school year draws to a close, we are testing, and I receive the report cards from every child.  Our curriculum includes five subjects:

  • French
  • Creole
  • Social Science
  • Experimental Science
  • Math

Additionally, each student receives a score from 1 [lowest] to 10 [highest] in

  • Conduct
  • Physical education
  • Religion
  • Art
  • Computer Science
  • Penmanship
taking a test

Some students do better than others, but they all try and they are hungry to learn.

I study the report cards and ask many questions and make many observations directly with our dedicated staff of teachers.  As an example, two first-grade students scored a perfect “10” in art.  I have asked to see some of their work, and I will share it when I have it.

As you consider what we are doing at the Barefoot School, consider your personal situation with children and grandchildren.  You can be an important part of some child’s education triangle.  Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.  The future of the world depends upon it.  If you would like to help us at the Barefoot School, you can donate through this link to the Nicole Megaloudis Foundation.  Please add the note “for the Barefoot School” as you make your contribution.

Mitakuye Oyasin

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