Michel DeGraff

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Students on the first day of school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As a schoolchild in Haiti in the 1970s, I was forbidden to speak my mother tongue, Haitian Creole, which we Haitians call Kreyòl. If I disobeyed, a teacher would remind me with the sharp smack of a ruler across my hand. Kreyòl, which emerged from the contact among French and African languages on colonial plantations, is the only language spoken by all Haitians. But the nation’s education system discriminates against it in favor of French, which is spoken by at most a tenth of the population. Kreyòl-speaking children are subjected to myriad classroom humiliations, including in at least one school a sign that says, “I have to always express myself in French.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a classroom in Port-au-Prince, Chantou, 9, sits silently at her desk. Nervously watching the teacher, she hopes to be invisible. Like most of her 60 classmates, she understands little of the French from the lecture. But if her memorized lesson is not recited with perfect pronunciation and grammar, she may be ridiculed or punished by her teacher.

In a classroom on La Gonâve island, two 9-year-olds, Kelson and Dieuricame, hover over a computer, excitedly playing a math game. Chatting away in their native Haitian Creole (spelled Kreyòl in Haiti), they experiment together and solve problems. When the teacher announces the end of class, they ask, “May we come back later for more?”…  Seguir leyendo »