I CAN IDENTIFY all the trees in France,’ a Haitian friend once told me, ‘But I look outside my window, and I can’t name any’.
When the French colonised Haiti they transferred their education system direct from the lycees of Paris. And, 190 years after independence, Haitian children are still chanting French nursery rhymes, learning by heart the exports of the RhoneSaone Valley and studying Racine.
Not only is the content of the curriculum strange, but for most Haitains the teaching language is incomprehensible. French is Haiti’s official language and is used in government and legal documents. The language of everyday life, however, is Creole. ‘Kreol pale Kreol kampranne’
‘Creole talks, Creole understands’, says one Haitian proverb. But Haitian teachers seem to disagree: Creole is not only ignored but actively discouraged in Haitian schools.
Over three-quarters of Haitians live in the countryside, but schools are concentrated in the towns. And this, combined with the archaic education system, has resulted in an 84 per cent illiteracy rate.
Children who do attend school often drop out before completing the primary course. And even those who continue are instilled with the idea that everything rural and authentically Haitian is undesirable. So on graduation, they are unwilling to work outside the capital, Port au Prince. And of the very few who reach university, many emigrate to the USA.
In recent years there has been a movement to establish a more genuinely Haitian education system and the appointment of Joseph Bernard as Minister of Education seemed like a step in the right direction. He proposed making Creole compulsory in primary schools and introducing more relevant teaching materials.
‘A Haitian student should start to understand what his country is,’ he said, ‘He can then work to improve the situation’.
In 1981 teachers started to receive training for the new curriculum But then in May this year the rumour spread that the reform had been turned down by the President. In June Bernard was told that it was not feasible to introduce the reform this year because of the economic situation In July he was dismissed.
Economic constraints are not, however, the only reason for rejecting the reform. In Haiti literacy is power. The Haitian government relies on its ability to hide many of its actions from the people. The educated 6lite have economic as well as political power; giving poor Haitians the tools to understand the system would not be in the interests of the wealthy.
There is also the question of snobbery. Speaking French is a sign of wealth and class. Said one upper-class Haitian mother: ‘When everybody is talking Creole, who will be able to tell the difference between our children and the peasants?’
Even parents of rural children have resisted the reform. Education in Creole might establish a Haitian identity, but under the present political and social system, peasants would still be excluded from well-paid jobs and positions of power. Reforming the education system can only succeed if it is accompanied by other measures to legitimise Creole and increase popular participation.
The fall of the education reform has disappointed many progressive Haitians. But the story will not end here. All over Haiti little rural schools are springing up, teaching in Creole and using the children’s own experience as a starting point. Maybe it will be the children educated in these schools who will be the ones to introduce wider-reaching change in the future.
Racial to the finish
HAS South Africa now complied with all the requirements to be readmitted into international sports competitions? Not according to the Catholic Institute for International Relations*.
‘The tradition of sport does not accept racial barriers’, says CIIR. and it is for this reason, rather than simply because of South Africa’s civil rights record, that there have been international boycotts — otherwise countries like the Soviet Union or Argentina might have been shunned for similar reasons. Neither of these countries, however, discriminates by law between athletes. So it is not a question of ‘politics’ interfering in sport since it is sportsmen themselves who, on their own criteria, have made the decision.
South Africa’s present policy does allow for what it calls ‘multi-national’ sport, through which sporting associations can be granted exemption from the apartheid laws. Clubs must seek a license to organise multiracial fixtures. And it is true that professional sportsmen do have a much easier time now when it comes to organising multiracial games.
But at the amateur level the veneer of multiraciality all but disappears. And in the schools, where several licences are required for non-racial local games, mixed sport is discouraged. In any case, as the pamphlet points out: ‘The suspension of apartheid laws for the duration of sporting events, and their enforcement before and after make a mockery of the spirit of sport’.
The other face of government sports policy is the repression of those actively campaigning for an end to apartheid in sport. Most of those who have led the non-racial sports movement since the 1960’s have suffered harassment or have been imprisoned. Sports officials like Morgan Naidoo, of the South African Council on Sport (SACOS) have been banned’.
SACOS represents the majority of black players in major sports. Its members support the international isolation of South African sport and themselves refuse to go on international tours or take part in ‘multinational’ events.
*Sport and Apartheid* CIIR. 22 Coleman Fields. London NI 7AF UK
Nestle knuckles rapped
IS the battle won against the baby bottle? Early in 1982 Nestle issued new guidelines to restrict their marketing strategies. Many people who had joined the Nestlé Boycott heaved sighs of relief that the problem was over and reached for their jars of Nescafe.
But, sadly, it was too soon for that. In June this year, a boycotter travelling in Malta noticed a pharmacy with posters on its facade advertising Pelargon and Nestogen, two Nestlé babymilk products.
The posters violated the code agreed by the World Health Organization — article 5 of which prohibits promotion to the general public and point-of-sale advertising Worse, both pictures depicted infants violating WHO Code article 9.1. Worst of all, the Pelargon poster claimed it to be ‘the greatest advance in infant feeding’ and the Nestogen poster claimed outright that it was ‘the best milk for your baby’. Not much attempt there by Nestle to honour their claim to protect breastfeeding’.
This is just one of the numerous examples accumulated by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) since the Nestle guidelines were issued. In the year-and-a-half since the WHO Code was agreed in May 1981, IBFAN has documented over two thousand violations by babymilk companies.
More worrying still senior Nestle marketing officials, contacted by IBFAN in Malaysia and the Philippines during March, were unaware of the Nestle policy guidelines issued in February of this year. So the fine words haven’t necessarily been translated into action.
But there’s even doubt about how fine the words are. Nestle claims, for example, that their guidelines have been welcomed by UNICEF. On the contrary, in May this year UNICEF’s Executive Director, James Grant, issued a strong rebuke to Nestle for the ‘possibly harmful’ way the company has chosen to interpret the WHO Code. He also asked Nestle not to use the name of UNICEF or himself ‘in any way that suggests our endorsement of Nestle’s instructions’.
Grant’s letter, which was reported both by the International Herald Tribune and the Washington Post followed a careful analysis of the Nestle guidelines by UNICEF staff. This gave rise to ‘serious misgivings on Nestlé’s interpretation of significant aspects of the (WHO) Code and on the possible harmful effect of its instructions the implementing of the true spirit and intent of the Code.
The Diego Garcian factor
BRITAIN’S extraordinary response to the invasion of the Falkland Islands earlier this year stands in stark contrast to its attitude to Diego Garcia The people of this Indian Ocean Island had their homeland handed over to another country, the United States, and were bodily shipped elsewhere — without even being consulted.
‘It is difficult to escape the conclusion’ says a new report from the Minority Rights Group, ‘that the chief reason for the oaramount’ treatment offered to the Falkland islanders is that their skins are white.’ The Ibis people of Diego Garcia, some of them the descendants of African slaves, did not have that advantage.
This sorry story began back in 1965 when Britain offered independence to Mauritius on the condition that the Chagos Islands, of which Diego Garcia is one, be hived off. Why Britain wanted to keep them only became clear a year later when she leased the islands to the United States for defence purposes.
The inhabitants, however, were an inconvenience. So the British government, with an extraordinary combination of cruelty, coercion and subterfuge began to remove them. For some of the Chagos islanders this meant being offered a free trip to Mauritius and then not being allowed to return. For others it was as a result of the British buying up the copra plantations and then closing them down so that there was no work.
In March 1971 the first American servicemen arrived in Diego Garcia and the Ibis people who lived there were told that they would have to leave. They were moved out, crammed in small boats, and even when they arrived in Mauritius the nightmare went on. The British government did not have the courtesy to arrange for their subjects to be met The islanders walked bewildered off the ships and tramped through the slums of Port Louis. the capital, looking for friends who might put them up.
Some compensation was to be offered —but not directly. The British government agreed to pay the Mauritian government $l.2m to resettle the refugees they had created. Most of this shameful story remained hidden until US Senate hearings in 1975 and subsequent press articles in the Washington Post and the London Sunday Times. By then at least half the islanders were unemployed, with the poorest being cared for by Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity.
In the years that followed the pressure and the protest built up. So by 1979 the British government was prepared to renegotiate and offered more money, this time as direct compensation to the Ibis. On the 27 March 1982 an agreement was reached involving around $l0 m about half what the islanders thought was necessary for the 900 families from the Chagos islands to start afresh in Mauritius. Most by then had been deeply scarred by the experience and there had already been illness and death from malnutrition.
Five days after the deal was initialled, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Suddenly an island community found itself, not the victim of Britain’s foreign policy, but virtually in charge of it. The double standard was complete.
*DIEGO GARCIA: A con trost to the Folklonds, hi’ John Modelex: Minority Rt~’hts Group £l.20/$3. 00. 36 Cro ten Street, London WC’2N5NG UK
Now that electricity, gas and firewood are becoming more and more expensive the government of Papua New Guinea is making strenuous efforts to promote charcoal as a substitute fuel.
The steady, intense heat that charcoal provides can be used in furnaces and for ore-smelting And in the home it is both cleaner and more energy-efficient than kerosene and safer too.
Would-be charcoal makers have to be directed,however,to those forest materials whose use would cause least environmental damage. The government wants people to use things like coconut shells and sawmill offcuts and avoid harvesting mature rubber trees.