Despite the large quantity of information regarding deficiencies within the Haitian education system, there is limited knowledge regarding the educational interventions that have been successful in Haiti. Further, there is even less information known on specific programs and the approaches used to respond to educational challenges in the country. This case study of the Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP), a higher-education centered organization in Haiti provides insight on the perceived challenges within the Haitian higher education system and it illuminates the various strategies that HELP employs to support the academic and future success of the university students in it its program.
Two research questions guided the study that investigated key stakeholders perceptions of challenges within the Haitian higher education system and inquired how various components of HELP supported the academic and future success of HELP scholars. HELP students, alumni, and staff, along with two non-HELP higher education stakeholders in Haiti were interviewed for this study. The framework for this research study incorporates the concepts of “university access” and “university persistence.” The conceptual framework drew from two World Bank background reports written by Rowan-Kenyon, Savitz-Romer, and Swan (2010) and Savitz-Romer, Rowan-Kenyon, Weilundemo, and Swan (2010) who provided a guide for evaluating and creating effective interventions for successful participation, persistence, and retention in tertiary (higher) education. The findings from this study provide insight on the range of challenges that students experience within the Haitian higher education system. HELP participant’s reflections on their experiences within the university system included those that could be categorized as barriers to university access and barriers to university persistence. They also described the impact of the January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake on their education as well as institutional practices and behaviors that impacted their university experiences. This study also included study participants’ perceptions of what is going well within the higher education landscape in Haiti. Overall, HELP study participants emphasized the role of HELP in responding to and alleviating barriers that could have proved to be detrimental to the university access, persistence, and graduation and future success of HELP scholars.