School girls return to schools made of concrete block
This image is a very encouraging sign for Haiti. Five school girls preparing for their school day. The back drop appears to be their new school building. Their clean uniforms and the fresh paint on the wall signal a potential change for Haiti’s future. They have great opportunity waiting for them within these block walls.
In 2-years the stories of reconstruction and educational rebirth have been inspiring.
This image also points to a problem that Haiti still must tackle. These schools still stand upon the remnants of the 2010 earthquake rubble. Memories still remain when similar schools crumbled and crushed students, families and friends. These school girls probably walk through neighborhoods still littered with the broken blocks of a failed concrete supply system. These are memories that must not become a future reality.
I would like to believe that these white walls and green pillars were constructed so that young minds can safely incubate the ideas of a better future for themselves and their families. My hope is that the blocks which will surround them have been produced with better sand, better machines and to a higher standard. But are those supportive columns engineered properly and does the concrete have enough cement? These girls and their classmates deserve to be safely sheltered as they become Haiti’s hope for a better future.
Today they are building their lives on the hope that others are rebuilding with stronger infrastructure. They look to government leaders who promise a home, jobs and working services. They rely on the United Nations, USAID, world leaders, local NGO’s and the kindness of many others to keep them safely nurtured in their schools.
When we examine the rubble piles we realize why so many schools failed in the 2010 earthquake. Concrete made from poor materials and bad practices is so weak it only takes a tap of a hammer to break into pieces. Blocks made without proper equipment crumble under foot. We must fix the concrete construction process before it kills another classroom of children. Training and talk are not enough…
Clement Belizaire directs a $98 million(US) project called 16/6 to change rubble strewn fields into homes and schools. He suggests that it is critical to “Bring in infrastructure for basic services”. I agree, but suggest that a concrete production infrastructure is as important to school safety as are roads and bridges. The reality is that road and bridge infrastructure also need quality concrete production in order to be sustainable. A working supply chain precedes the building of a strong infrastructure.
The United Nations Mission Director of Stabilization for Haiti, Nigel Fisher realizes that the country is “Structurally Broken“, yet I wonder what is being done to stabilize concrete construction in Haiti. Are we working to mine and produce better sands and appropriate aggregates? Who is organizing the concrete production network so that they don’t rely on the use of shovel-mixing on the ground? Are the block making factories getting proper oversight and better equipment? What about building codes and enforcement? Are any supply chain stabilization programs even on the UN or Haitian government’s radar? Haiti’s concrete is structurally broken and must be fixed.
There are many organizations working to school and train Haitians to build back better. But until the entire concrete supply system is organized and supported properly, we will not be providing Haitian school children with the strong infrastructure they deserve.
When you view construction videos from Haiti, we ask that you watch for any of the modern equipment or construction technology that we expect for safe school construction in the US. I will bet that you will see more shovels working on the ground than you should… These shovels represent a failure to fix the broken concrete supply systems of Haiti.
Do you have any other ideas on how to make these school girls safe from the next disaster to hit Haiti?