On October 1, 2012, the Medical School at UNIFA began its second academic year. A new video highlights UNIFA’s progress and goals.
Two hundred and fifty-four candidates successfully passed the admissions exam and were accepted as first year medical students. One hundred and eighteen second year students returned to campus for their second year of studies (out of a total of 126 students who began in the fall of 2011). A dozen new teachers joined the teaching staff, raising the faculty’s total teaching staff to over 18.
UNIFA offeres a full complement of science and medical coursework. Language study (French, English and Spanish) continue to be requirements.
UNIFA was able to offer all second year medical students a partial scholarship to assist with their tuition. A memo from the Office of the UNIFA President, Dr. Aristide, informed students that it was indeed the university’s goals to seek out scholarship aid for its students, as it announced this response to needs impatiently expressed by students.
UNIFA offered all second year medical students a partial scholarship. A memo from the Office of the UNIFA President, Dr. Aristide, informed students that it was indeed the university’s goals to seek out scholarship aid for its students, as it announced this response to needs impatiently expressed by students.
Thanks to generous fundraising efforts in the US sponsored by the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund and Partnership for Education, Health and Democracy in Haiti, significant improvements were able to be made on campus: the auditorium was renovated; electric and plumbing infrastructure in the classroom building was repaired; new student desks were purchased; benches and outdoor seating were installed under shaded trees in the courtyards around the Medical School.
SCHOOL OF NURSING
In early November 2012, the UNIFA launched its new nursing program. Haiti faces an acute nursing shortage, exaccerbated when hundred new graduates of the state’s nursing school were killed in the January 2010 earthquake. UNIFA’s nursing program aims to address this shortage. UNIFA admitted 73 first year nursing students to its program. These students will complete a 4- year nursing program. Five additional teachers joined UINFA’s teaching staff, while faculty from the medical school covers some core courses like chemistry and anatomy. A simulated nurse’s practice room is being set up on campus. In November, UNIFA held exploratory meetings with two US nursing schools to explore collaborative programs.
During the fall semester Dr. James Hudspeth, an instructor in Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, conducted a week long seminar to the second year students focused on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. These two diseases are very common in Haiti, and are an important source of illness for doctors working in any aspect of medicine to know about. The students learned essential information about both diseases, including molecular biology, epidemiology, history, diagnosis, prevention, and therapy. This information will inform their subsequent 4 years of study and helps to frame a number of the other illnesses they will learn of in the years to come.
After classes, Dr. Hudspeth spent time with students, extending class discussions.
During the week, Dr. Hudspeth was housed on campus at one of the professor’s residences refurbished last year and set aside for visiting instructors. His visit is part of UNIFA’s partnership with the Boston-based health organization Physicians for Haiti. The group has a going a data bank of of physicians, nurses and instructors interested in teaching at UNIFA. Four more visiting faculty will offer courses in the Spring of 2013.
On September 26, 2011 the Medical School of UNIFA (the University of the Aristide Foundation) officially reopened its doors to a new class of future Haitian doctors. Seven years after the school’s forced closure in 2004, and four months after the return of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti, medical education resumed at UNIFA.
Over the summer of 2011, the Faculty of Medicine (pictured below) was repaired and refurbished after sustaining mild damage in the 2010 quake.
In late August, recruitment of students began. A week-long registration period brought thousands of young applicants to UNIFA and the Aristide Foundation where initial registration was held. Nine hundred students whose grades and scores on the Baccalaureate exam met the minimum requirement went on to take an entrance exam.
From the 900 applicants, 126 students who received the highest test scores were selected.
UNIFA was founded in 2001 in response to the desperate need for more doctors and health professionals in Haiti. A fundamental part of its mission was and is to begin to break down long traditions of exclusion of the poor majority in Haiti from access to higher education. Even before the earthquake there were very few spots in medical schools in Haiti (private or public). Gaining entrance to Medical School was nearly impossible for students without connections or financial means. The earthquake destroyed or severely damaged 80% of the institutions of higher education, most are still struggling to resume full functioning. All of this made the reopening of UNIFA a priority. Today UNIFA still aims to combat social exclusion by recruiting students from families who have historically been unable to access higher education, from all ten departments of Haiti, and with a commitment to equal gender representation. Without financial support from the public sector, UNIFA can no longer offer Medical education free of charge. However tuition at UNIFA is just one-third of what private medical school in Haiti charge.
On September 26, 2011 Dr Ginette Lubin the new Dean of the Medical School welcomed the new students to the campus.
Classes began the next day. This fall the students completed a 3-month intensive Spanish language program. As was the case before 2004, UNIFA’s medical curriculum is based on the curriculum used in Cuba, which has trained thousands of doctors from Latin America. UniFA’s faculty today consist of a mix of Haitian and Cuban medical and languages specialists. A select group of UniFA alumni, doctors from the original three classes of medical students who went on to complete their medical studies in Cuba after the 2004 coup d’etat, are assisting in the classrooms. The long term goal is that some of these young doctors will go on to get pedagogical training and eventually become faculty members at UNIFA.
After completing the first phase of their language training the new class began the Medical portion of their studies in January 2012. They are expected to complete their studies in three to four years.
The reopening of UNIFA war financially possible due to two generous donations. We are deeply grateful to Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health for their steadfast support. We are also grateful to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund for the faith and dedication they have shown to the AFD and to UniFA.
We congratulate this first class of medical students for their success in gaining entry to UNIFA. We salute the sacrifices that they and their families are making to allow them to attend. We also salute the tremendous hard work of everyone involved, the staff and faculty of UNIFA, for coming together, rebuilding and reopening in such a short time.
On February 2, 2011 The Aristide Foundation inaugurated a Youth League under the banner: Youth Action, Integration and Cooperation. The purpose of the League is to create a space for debate, intellectual and cultural exchange, and practical training for young people who want to assist in the rebuilding of their country. More than 1,500 people attended the official launch, with 132 representatives coming from each of Haiti’s ten departments. Since February the league has grown by leaps and bounds, holding weekly training seminars and events to mark days of national importance.
On February 23, 2011, 1632 young people were invited to participate in an all day work session to reflect on different areas of future activities including, Psychology, Health, Economics, Communication, Education, Sports, culture, and Justice and Human Rights. After six hours of brainstorming, discussion n and debate each working group presented their conclusions and suggestions for moving forward.
Since February 23, the league has more than doubled in size, mainly through word of mouth. On March 22, another 1700 young people joined, and each week since hundreds of new young people have joined, gathering weekly at the Foundation to listen to speakers on a range of topics. The current membership is over 6,000. Many of these young people are participating in classes organized at the foundation in the following areas: music lessons, driving school, cholera prevention seminars, first aid, and computer courses.
In addition to weekly meetings, the league sponsors events to mark important national dates. For International Women’s Day the league sponsored a debate on the active participation of women in the economic and political life of the country. On May 1, (agriculture day in Haiti) agronomists, Dejean and Mésidor presented a conference on environmental degradation and reforestation. Participants received seedlings for planting at the end of the conference. On May 18, rather than having an outside speaker, two Youth League members from the Political Science working group presented the history of the Haitian flag.
On May 28, 2011, a delegation of five teachers traveled to Jacmel to offer a training session for 115 new young people who had enrolled in the league in the South East.
Since June 11, leaders of the Youth League, which includes some of the Cuban-trained doctors who are UniFA graduates, and other young professionals have been meeting every two weeks to harmonize the administrative and technical structures of the league while laying the foundations for coordinating efforts in all ten provinces of Haiti.
On July 15, to mark the birthday of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and in response to the resurgence of cholera in the country, the Youth League, led by 60 doctors, many of them UniFA graduates, held a huge cholera prevention seminar, with a mass demonstration hand-washing, followed by a free medical clinic for area residents.
Most of those who have joined the Youth League are between 16 and 25 years old. According to Merry Roche, the Foundation’s coordinator of youth activities, young people are flocking to the Foundation for a variety of reasons. The welcoming atmosphere at the Foundation attracts them, as does the possibility of finding a spot in a practical training session. Many also hope that one day they may be able to study at UniFA (the University of the Aristide Foundation, whose Medical School is scheduled to reopen in September). Most of all they are looking for a way to contribute, a vehicle for channeling their energies into building a better country. Foundation staff has been impressed at the dedication of the young people who have formed the League. Most have either completed their Rheto or Philo exams (Exams given during the final two years of high school – reaching this academic level in Haiti is already a major accomplishment.) These are young people with high aspirations. They are creative and cooperative and feel great pride in belonging to the youth league. The Foundation has been overwhelmed by both the turnout and the dedication of these young people and is struggling to create programs to meet their aspirations.
It is already clear that UniFA, once it reopens will be able to accommodate only a handful of these young people. The Foundation is exploring the possibility of expanding vocational training programs beyond the computer school, which already operates at the Foundation. We are looking at possibilities in plumbing, carpentry, electricity, silk-screening, administration, accounting, and perhaps most importantly entrepreneurial mentoring to assist groups of young people in the creation of micro enterprises in the above fields.
If youth is the hope of all countries, the youth league of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy is a profound demonstration of Haiti’s potential. More than half of Haiti’s population is below the age of 25. Each year tens of thousands graduate from high school. Baccalaureate exams are taking place right now across Haiti with more than 130,000 students participating. (If they pass the two-year cycle of exams they are qualified to go to University) Yet, there are only places for a handful of these students at Haiti’s Universities and nearly all of Haiti’s Universities have been hit very hard by the quake. There is massive pent up demand for access to post high school education or training – whether University level or vocational. The energy of Haiti’s young people must become the engine that drives Haiti’s recovery. The question facing both the Foundation, UniFA and really the country as a whole is how do we answer their call?