Only half the 20 students in the School of Public Affairs’ public financial management program in Haiti have been accounted for since the earthquake, and the program’s facilities have been destroyed, according to William LeoGrande, dean of SPA.
The students enrolled in the program are all Haitian, most of them young, entry-level employees of the Central Bank and other government industries, LeoGrande said.
“We’re still trying to get in touch with the students — we haven’t heard from all of them yet,” he said. “And we fear that one or more of them may have been lost in the quake. We know some of our students lost family members. We’ve been in touch with about half of [the students] at this point.”
Originally, the idea for the program came from a faculty member who had worked at the Haitian Central Bank, which was interested in an advanced learning program for its younger employees, LeoGrande said. The bank was looking for a public financial management program, prompting faculty from both AU and the Haitian Central Bank to start the program. The year-long program consists of six courses and is worth about half of a master’s degree, according to LeoGrande.
When the earthquake struck, about six of the eight courses in public financial management had been completed. Regardless of the destruction in Haiti, the program will be finished, possibly in another location, LeoGrande said.
“We’d be prepared to provide the final part of the program in the Dominican Republic or perhaps somewhere in the United States, like in Miami,” he said. “I have colleagues in various universities in Miami that I’m sure would be happy to provide the space to finish the program.”
Mackenrood Lacour, a student enrolled in the program, who works for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Telecommunications in Haiti, said it is more important than ever to be educated in Haiti right now and to complete the program.
“I have a very strong determination to complete this program regardless of the location,” he said in an e-mail. “It is my belief that the SPA program in Haiti is now more important than ever. As the country goes through a painful new start, new policies must be defined to rebuild in a more sustainable way. A large number of able professionals will be needed for a long time to complete this task.”
Although Lacour wants to finish the program, he said he is not confident that all the other students will.
“I couldn’t speak on behalf of all participants,” he said. “We have all been affected by the terrible events that occurred, but some have suffered more than others, and decisions may differ.”
LeoGrande said that AU would probably provide money for housing.
“We would have to raise the money for that,” he said. “And we haven’t gotten to that point yet, but if it means we need to devote some scholarship funds to that, I think the AU community would be willing to make some contributions in that direction.”
It is important for participants to receive support from AU in order to maintain good levels of performance, according to Lacour.
“We are determined not to let this tragedy prevent us from completing it,” LeoGrande said.