There have been so many reports and wonderful stories about courage and survival in Haiti after the devastating earthquake that many longed for the good news in stories. Many felt that the good news was found in the stories of those children who made it to NYC to live with relatives and friends and the chance that they would find within the excellent NYC educational system and the supportive framework of such a diverse city. In truth, however, the arrival of students in NYC, ready to learn or not, has proven difficult for the NYC school system to place.
The Department of Education says 219 Haitian students have enrolled in city schools since the earthquake — a process that should take five days at most.
It often takes longer for high schoolers since they have to go to an enrollment center to get placed. As a result, schools can refuse to take them for a variety of reasons, which means back to the enrollment center to start the process over.
While some people complain about the unemployment line lasting all day without yielding results, few realize that the enrollment line for schools could be the same for new students.
Chesna joined her father in New York on January 26th. But she still hasn’t started school. She waited hours in an enrollment center three times during the past three weeks before she was assigned to a school that said it had no room until next fall.
Finally, this week, a youth organizer from the Haitian organization Flanbwayan said she may have found Chesna a spot at the Emma Lazurus High School for English Language Learners in Chinatown. She plans to start on Monday. But for earthquake survivors like Chesna, getting into a school may be just the beginning.
Education is not something that should be taken for granted in any situation or anywhere, however it was a commonly held belief that a NYC student could enroll in a school to get an education, not wait in line for weeks only to be turned away and told to come back later. The children from Haiti have undergone so much that this last step, finding a place for them in our schools, should not become yet another unending obstacle for them.