August 11, 2010 10 Comments Leila Uncategorized , ,

Posted for: Michel DeGraff, MIT Linguistics & Philosophy

Dear friends and colleagues,

We ask that you please take time to read, sign and distribute Professor Yves Dejean’s urgent public petition about school reform in Haiti.

The petition is available online at: — courtesy of indefatigable Web Designer Jean-Pierre Barthélémy.

If you sign the petition, you will receive an automatic message from the email address of Jean-Pierre Barthelemy. This email will ask that you please click on a website to confirm your email address. After you click on this website, and your signature will appear under the petition.

Here’s why we think Professor Dejean’s petition deserves as much support as possible:

With all the billions and the vast efforts that are now being invested in the reconstruction of education in Haiti, now is the time to solve one fundamental problem that has plagued Haitian schools since the country’s birth. This problem concerns the misuse of language in Haiti’s schools. This is a problem that Haitian governments since the 1980s have been confronting with only limited success to date. So we need to gather as much momentum and public consciousness as possible to address this problem with the necessary efficacy.

Indeed, by all accounts, Haitian schools are still not making optimal use of Haitian children’s native language of Kreyòl. Most school books and most school exams are still in French, a language that the vast majority of Haitians, including the vast majority of Haitian teachers, do not adequately speak and understand. Such a paradoxical and exclusionary practice is a consequence of Haiti’s past as a French slave-based plantation colony and its unjust neo-colonial legacies.

This practice of teaching and testing Kreyòl-speaking children in French goes against pedagogical best practice and scientific results that have accumulated in more than 50 years of research in linguistics and in education. Teaching and testing in a language that the vast majority of Haitians do not speak is one reason why Haiti’s education system has failed most Haitians throughout the country’s history. In turn, this language barrier and the attendant educational failure are at the root of much socio-economic inequity in Haiti.

We thus ask that you take a public stance against such blatant injustice: Please sign Professor Yves Dejean’s petition at and invite friends and colleagues to do so as promptly as possible. Once the petition has collected enough signatures, it will be forwarded to Haiti’s government officials, NGOs, media outlets and other institutions that are trying to usher some of the educational reforms that Haitian children desperately need.

The petition was written in Kreyòl by Professor Dejean, then translated into English and French by Professors Michel DeGraff and Hugues Saint-Fort, respectively. Jean-Pierre Barthélémy designed the website for the petition at

In solidarity for Ayiti cheri,

Professor Michel DeGraff, MIT
Professor Hugues Saint-Fort, City University of New York

Michel DeGraff
MIT Linguistics & Philosophy
77 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge MA 02139