Open Space on Education on the Island of La Gonave, Haiti

This Spring 2003 the Matènwa Community Learning Center had an Open Space on, "What kind of Education will save La Gonave?" (Lagonave is getting more deforested everyday and there is drought and hunger. We estimate that half of ourstudents get a complete meal once day, many eat only a piece of fried dough one day and then cornmeal, beans and cabbage the next.) About 40 educators and directors came to the open space. Many topics about creating vegetable gardens at school came up. Many discussions about the importance of this hands on learning vs. memorizing texts in French.

But the most energizing conversation was about corporal punishment. The question being whether Haitians were ready for this kind of democracy. A pastor who is known to use corporal punishment frequently was being confronted by the opinions of several younger teachers who were against it. It was amazing. In the pastor's church there would never be such an open discussion. I was very impressed to see that one of my teachers, a woman who had been very timid before her years of experience with Reflection Circles and Open Space technology, and is now a student of theology, spoke with great clarity. "With all due respect Pastor, I have been teaching here for 5 years now and I have never once felt the need to hit a student. If you get to know them you know how to control them through dialogue." He had tried to interrupt her in mid sentence but she said," I listened to you, with all due respect, now you are going to listen to me."

Coming from this little village in the mountains, on a little conservative island off the coast of Haiti, what some discribe as the end of the earth, people are finding their voice through Open Space.

Thank you Chris Low