Matènwa is different from other schools in Haiti. It is run by both an American woman (who has been living here for years) and a Haitian man. The private school functions on a different frequency than other schools. There is a no beating policy at the school. Students are not reprimanded physically for their mistakes. There is also no uniform policy (although students are loosely asked to wear blue pants and a white top, if possible), as many students are too poor to be able to afford uniforms. Teachers are encouraged to guide students rather than to expect a regular memorize-and-repeat scheme. Many students have open reading time in the morning. Students are served breakfast (as school finishes around lunchtime) and are expected to wash their own plates. Perhaps the thing that stands out the most, however, is that students are taught in their native Haitian Creole, and not French.
On Thursday, students and teachers meet for a school-wide meeting. They sit in an enormous, three-row circle along the interior of the learning center’s round walls. During open discussion time, teachers stand up and actively congratulate their students on a great job learning and paying attention these past few days. A few minutes later, each grade (there is one class per grade level here) presents a skit, song or other presentation for the rest of the group. The school-wide assembly ends up in laughter, some students on the floor, kicking in excitement.