I'd like to give you a report on a meeting that I, Tom, Mesidor, George, and Frantz Pierre-Rosner, agronomist student and worker in the Ag. Program, held with Eddie and Gene, to discuss plans for the campus. Since I am the one giving the report, I hope that you will indulge me if I make a few side remarks, about my own motivations for engaging in this plan. In consequence, I want to apologize for the length of this report!
We asked to speak with Eddie and Gene for about an hour on Wednesday morning of their visit, which they graciously allowed, even though they were very tired after their trip and had a lot going on that first morning.
When Ray was here in the fall he asked me, George, and Frantz Pierre to look over the agricultural aspects of the campus, with an eye to providing a specific plan for this year's crops; but he also wanted us to keep an eye on the big picture (including the plans already on the books, in the engineering plan).
We extended the committee a little, to include Mesidor (who had raised several issues relevant to campus planning), and then brought Tom in during his recent visit (to provide coordination with the reforestation project and the coffee cooperative planning).
Together we brainstormed some issues that we consider of importance. An over-riding goal, to which we generally subscribe, is that the campus should be a place of beauty, and a place where everything that is done is done in "the proper way". As a goal, we should see that every activity on campus is carried out so that it can be considered a demonstration for anyone in the community. The campus should be neat and clean. The agriculture taking place on campus should be carried out in the best possible way. Etc.
Furthermore, students should work on campus. They should be invested in the campus, so that they take care of it, and so that they feel proud of it. This is part of a tradition of Seventh Day Adventist schools, not an alien idea. It is also in line with a book which I found on Ivy's shelf, read here, and now recommend to everyone who seeks to improve life in Ranquitte: Up from Slavery, the autobiography of Booker T. Washington (BTW). Washington created the Tuskegee Institute out of essentially nothing following the Civil War, and some of the same ideas and strategies could transform Ranquitte. Educationally, I believe that the parallels are especially striking. As BTW prepared to develop the curriculum of the school, he traveled the area around Tuskegee, and reported that
The curriculum of Calhoun-Spady is the curriculum of Paris: when I came here and took up the curriculum for the math class I was to teach, I was astonished to discover that it was the same curriculum that I'd used while a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, 20 years ago. It's the French style system, preparing students to become good French citizens, lawyers, teachers, industrialists, etc. -- that is, as of 20 years ago. The pedagogy is memorization of generally useless "facts", such as the "fact" that there are 4 billion people in the world (Rose Manie was memorizing a fact 20 years out of date).
What might BTW say?
I believe that the curriculum here IS a waste of time for the vast majority of students (those who will not be going on to college). I cite BTW in a passage that could just as easily describe Ranquitte:
When Anna and I arrived here, we were astonished that there were not more skilled tradesmen: in Togo there is a strong tradition of apprenticeship, so that every mason, each carpenter, each tailor, each blacksmith, each mechanic is surrounded by as many as a dozen apprentices. Skills are transmitted in the most elegant and tried-and-true fashion: by hands-on learning. And there exists a skilled class of tradesman for any job. By contrast, in Ranquitte there is an absolute dearth of skilled tradesmen, as Tom Durant will attest: when he first came to Ranquitte, he did a skill assessment of the area, and found few skills (beyond casket-making). BTW realized that students needed to be taught the concept of "dignity of labor," a concept that was lacking in the newly freed slaves. That ethic emanates from the pride associated with participating in the application of trade-based skills. This is a far cry from the current ethic embraced by many young ones in Ranquitte, an ethic typified by the phrase, "Hey Blanc, give me a dollar."
In the absence of apprenticeship, schools could and should provide education in the trades and in agriculture: this would be an obvious improvement over "French Grammar". In support of this mission, we propose that the campus become a showplace for agriculture, the number one trade of the area. Furthermore, I believe that we should move the curriculum towards the trades, perhaps considering a trade school for half of the current population, and more traditional university-track education for the other half. But that it another discussion. For the moment, be assured that Mesidor is interested in having students share in the agricultural activities on campus, and share in the transformation of the campus to an agricultural showplace.
This corresponds well with another aspect of Tom's work: one of his early objectives was to provide work for those in school who would not go on to the university, but who would end up staying in Ranquitte. He soon discovered that swinging a pickax or handling a shovel was not work to excite young men and women of Calhoun-Spady. Frantz Pierre is a prime example of attitudinal prejudice against manual labor. His friends chastise him for pursuing a career in agronomy, and not a career in a more esteemed profession (i.e., doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc.). BTW encountered the same problem:
We would like to attempt some of the same things here in Ranquitte, but perhaps on a less magnificent scale (at least at first!). Getting down to brass tacks, then, we considered as a committee which aspects of the campus we should keep, which aspects of the campus we would need to change, and what aspects we would like to add. Specific topics we discussed included
We provided a preliminary plan of the campus, in which each of these elements was incorporated. The plan is in two scanned pieces:
This is simply a preliminary plan, which represents an attempt to create a campus which is in harmony with the facets described above, and with the nursery as a focus. As one can see, the nursery has been placed next to the school (and on the site of the future Ivy Salomon Auditorium in the current long-range plan). We placed it there for several reasons:
Tom emphasizes the role of beauty and practical demonstration in encouraging visitors (e.g. CFI groups) to return home talking enthusiastically about CFI's work in Ranquitte. The obvious corollary is that the people to whom they speak might be convinced to give, or to give more, based on visitors' enthusiasm. As it is, visitors relaxing on the porch currently look out at a bare expanse, sloping up to the school and to a trash pile; on the right they see a weedy patch of coffee and bananas. It is not a sight to inspire. You won't be surprised that this is one of the most commented on aspects of the campus: its trashy appearance.
Might it not be better to see students actively working on a tree-nursery, whose utility for the reforestation effort is obvious. Trash would be nowhere in sight, landfilled at the back of the campus. The weedy field would be cleared and would be replanted, with paths past it and through it so that visitors could see the progress being made. There would be paths around campus so that visitors could visit other projects, including row crops planted in the best possible fashion; orchards of citrus, banana, and hardwoods; a botanical tree walk; and everything would be cultivated properly. Demonstrations (e.g. composting toilets, composting, solar dehydration) would also be in view. Trenches would drain water from the house and campus properly, irrigating the fields of bananas and moving the water so that our vast mosquito farm would be no more. Composting would provide one of the most important elements for the nursery: good soil. Manure from the composting toilets and from the animal park, as well as from the animal husbandry projects, would be reused in the nursery.
That's the vision. What follows are some concrete steps that will be needed to make it happen:
How can we realize the objectives of the plan? It will require labor and money. Tom has offered his workforce for the month of March to engage in some of the preliminary work: preparing the ground for the nursery, redigging the trenches, preparing the landfill, roughing out the trails, etc. Much of this could be accomplished without any additional expense.
As to who would work the campus, and keep it up, George is of the opinion that the reforestation team can do that in addition to keeping up with the reforestation effort. In the long term, however, it would probably be a good idea to have at least one person, preferably an agronomist, dedicated to the campus and available to give classes, direct students and teams to help, etc.
When it comes to the nursery, however, we will have to spend some money. I have offered three thousand dollars that I would like to see used on campus for the nursery. This is money that I could use to buy trees for the arborloo project (I need 600 trees, to give to the users of the 100 arborloos that we've put in): but what better way to buy trees than to help pay for the nursery that then grows them? If the Board okays the nursery, then I will transfer that sum to Tom's account for nursery expenditures.
More money will be necessary, of course. Tom has put out some grant proposals, which include requests for nursery costs. He told me that grants including educational objectives are widely available, so incorporating the school into the grants may be a very good idea. He's looking into this. Hence, students could and should be enlisted in all aspects of this campus plan. So, for instance, once the landfill space is ready, the campus should hold a "campus cleanup day". The students would collect trash all around the school and clinic area, and then wheelbarrows of trash would move back to the landfill. Each time the campus needed cleaning, another "cleanup day" would be declared: we hope that this will have the impact of decreasing the amount of litter that makes it onto the campus in the first place. We would need to put in some trash receptacles on campus, but a few cement block trash containers would probably suffice.
From the educational standpoint, both Mesidor and George immediately had the idea of the students receiving trees for planting on Haiti's Arbor Days (May 1st and 2nd). We have almost 2000 moringa seeds, which could be planted soon, and should be large enough to transplant by May -- if we move along quickly.
With planning will come the need to reign in those who are either unaware of the plan, or who choose to disrespect it. A set of campus policies, clearly posted, will help everyone, especially the security guards, to enforce the plan.
Gene had me present our plan to the whole group at their Friday morning devotional. Several of the volunteers were very supportive (and especially liked the idea of getting the place cleaned of litter). Aesthetics and beauty seem to be relatively far from most Haitians' minds. So, for example, I watched as a kid butchered a mango tree, to get more wood for a charcoal fire he was preparing. The mango, which is beside the drive leading to Ivy's house and clearly visible from the house, is now a tall stump, out of which shoot a few branches. From an agricultural perspective, George was not bothered: after all, the mango will survive. What he did not consider, and has generally not considered, is the aesthetics: how will Americans visiting the campus react?
In terms of beautification, our plan calls for a botanical walk, with trees along the wall at the south east end of campus. The area around the school should be beautified as well, with trees planted to provide shade and a better ambiance (a single scrawny papaya tree sits in front of the PDU). The area around Ivy's house is already relatively beautiful, with flowers that she has imported; so it's off to a very good start.
Since the young tree butcher was preparing to make charcoal, I asked George to plan with the fellow: which trees should he be allowed to "harvest" for additional charcoal wood? George talked with him, and they agreed on two mango trees that could stand a trimming. Shortly thereafter Ray's group was on campus, and as two American's watched from the dorm porch in horror, the tree butcher lopped a large branch off of an "unauthorized" mango. One of them ran over to me, and alerted me: she felt that the tree was being butchered. I explained to them what was going on, that the young man was using an unauthorized tree to make charcoal, and I warned the butcher off the tree. He claimed that he thought that that was the mango tree we'd agreed on (when George had clearly pointed out another). These tree butchers have roamed the campus with impunity long enough that he probably didn't take our discussion seriously.
On the subject of charcoal, Mesidor, Ivy and I are in agreement that there is no reason that charcoal should be made on campus: it's a nasty business, which pollutes the air we breathe (Mesidor's concern to me, for his students), and requires a lot of vicious tree pruning by people who don't care for the campus other than as a source of wood. This leads to the idea of "campus policies" (e.g. security issues: barring individuals from campus).
So, as a preliminary list of campus policies, I would suggest including at least these:
Eddie wondered if students might work at the bakery as part of the trade school. He mentioned that he has offered in the past to pursue reopening the bakery so that bread could be baked for the students. Now that the bakery is open (by owners unknown to George or to me), Eddie wondered about a plan of buying the bread from the bakery to feed the students. The bakery could have an "outlet" store outside of the gates for excess production (to keep people from coming on to campus to buy). Suffice it to say that the bakery poses a security hole at present.
Tom may want to add something to this report, as may Eddie and Gene. At any rate, this is my perspective, and I encourage you to have a look at our plan, consider these suggestions, and let us know how we should proceed.