3 Students with Disabilities and Childhood Protection: Analysis of Data Collected in Grand’Anse

Samuel Régulus et Vijonet Demero


At-risk children benefit from some forms of protection established by the Institut du Bien-Être Social et de Recherches (IBESR) and its partners. However, the data that are analyzed and available demonstrate that public policies on child protection do not serve students with disabilities. The policies in place do not enforce children’s right to education. Disability is viewed from a biomedical point of view in terms of the health of the child, while ignoring legal and psycho-pedagogical factors associated to the child’s full development. This study examines the types of protection offered to students with disabilities in 22 schools located in the Grand’Anse department

Keywords: students, disability, protection, childhood, school, rights, Grand’Anse

Timoun ki nan prekarite yo jwen kèk fòm  pwoteksyon bò kote Enstiti byennèt sosyal ak rechèch (IBESR) ak patnè li yo. Men done ki disponib sou teren yo montre ke politik ki aplike nan zafè pwoteksyon timoun, pa bay ase  rezilta pou kategori elèv ki nan sitiyasyon andikap. Sistèm eskolè ayisyen an pa toujou respekte dwa edikasyon timoun sa yo nan nivo sikopedagoji. Yo konsidere fenomèn andikap la nan dimansyon byomedikal sèlman, etan yo inyore dimansyon jiridik ak sikopedagojik pwoblèm nan, alòske eleman sa yo nesesè pou timoun yo ka grandi nan tout sans yo. Nan atik sa a, n ap eksplore kesyon pwoteksyon  timoun yo bò kote elèv ki nan sitiyasyon andikap nan 22 lekòl ki nan depatman Grandans.

Mo-kle: elèv, anseyan, andikap, pwoteksyon, dwa, Grandans


Child protection is at the center of public debate and has become a concern in recent decades. It is on the agenda of many, including civil society actors, researchers (Garel, 2003; Grevot, 2010; Gilbert, 2011; Lainy, 2017) and educators. Hurricane Matthew, which ravaged the far Grand Sud of Haiti, caused natural and human damages. The human casualties characterized by loss of life, physical and moral injuries led to physical and mental impairments throughout the region. This natural disaster motivated the researchers’ interest for the study.

The international agreement reached between the States on children’s rights, which was ratified and enacted by the Haitian government on 20 November 1994 requires the protection of the best interests of the child in all spheres of life. Furthermore, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities emphasized the principle of non-discrimination of children with disabilities (Toubon & Avenard, 2017). This international convention proposed inclusion as a measure to protect the child’s right to education. It sought to produce a model of inclusive education in which all students would reach their full learning potential (Ebersold, Plaisance & Zander, 2016). This makes school principals and teachers the advocates for the rights of the students for whom they are responsible.

The education model of inclusion promotes pedagogical practices that enable each learner to feel valued, confident and safe so that the “disabilities” attached to stigma are addressed in order to think and activate their capacities (The Captain, 2016). Through this article on “child protection in the department of Grand’Anse”, we will examine a segment of the protection of students with disabilities and analyze teachers’ pedagogical practices.

The data analyzed in this article were extracted from 22 schools out of a total of 89 schools that participated in the research project that GIECLAT implemented since May 2018. These 22 schools are located in the communes of Marfranc, Les Irois, Abricots, Dame-Marie, Moron, Roseaux, Jérémie, Beaumont, Pestel, Chambellan and Corail. The main collection data techniques included in situ observations, interviews, meetings, visits, questionnaires and psychological tests.

Conceptual accuracy: disability, disadvantage, incapacity and impairment

Several scholars suggest that disability should be approached in terms of disadvantage linked to the situation in which the child is evolving (Fougeyrollas, 1993; Ebersold, 2002; Garel, 2003a). This is due to the fact that the learner is unable to fulfill the expected academic and social roles. For example, upon completion of his or her studies, a learner may find himself or herself unable to access employment or leisure activities. Disability is seen in terms of incapacity (Mormiche, 2003; Heran & Gastal, 2010). It is characterized by the reduction of the learner’s ability to perform a task within the limits considered normal. For example, a child is unable to move around without a wheelchair.  Disability is ultimately treated in terms of impairment (Giami, 1994; Stiker, 2009). It is characterized by a physical or motor impairment caused by the loss of physiological function, i.e., of the nervous system, muscles or skeleton. In this perspective, we consider intellectual or psychic impairment, sensory impairment (hearing or visual), visceral or metabolic impairment, and language impairment (aphasia, written or oral language disorder, voice and speech disorders).

Disability may be intellectual or psychological, physical, multiple disabilities, sensory, behavioral (Garel, 2003b). Therefore, institutions specialized in medico-education, medical, medico-social and educational are safe spaces to address each type of disability.

Students with disabilities and childhood protection in Haiti

As prescribed by the Haitian Constitution of 1987, child protection is the responsibility of the government. Child protection falls within the category of effective public policy which refers to any action aimed at addressing the problems encountered by minors in their family life. Grevot (2010) identifies three categories of children to be cared for in this process. The first category includes children whose biological parents are unable to provide for their care, specifically their education. This is due to socio-economic problems, a lack of knowledge of the child’s needs or a combination of environmental, psychological and emotional factors preventing them from paying sufficient attention to their children. The second category is children living in environments where physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse occurs. This category includes children in domestic service, children placed in institutions (orphanages or children’s homes) and over-age children. The third category is that of children sometimes referred to as street children and sometimes as children in conflict with the law.

It is noted that for several decades, most actions concerning these three categories of children in Haiti have been carried out by the Institut du Bien-être Social et de Recherches (IBESR), with the support and technical assistance of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as LUMOS, Bethany Global, Terre des Hommes, World Vision (to names few). However, there is one category of these children that tend to be neglected by the IBESR and its partners. These are students with learning disorders that lead to repetition and over-ageing.

Learning disorders are defined as a dysfunction in the ability to acquire knowledge. They reflect a certain difficulty of the student to systematically process the information to be learned, i.e., absorption, storage and retrieval. This cognitive deficit has a negative effect on the way the learner perceives, receives, understands and expresses information (Auclair, 2006). Learning disabilities constitute a major anomaly for the students, especially when they have not been taken into account in teaching practices.

Learning disorders result from neurophysiological complications, social and environmental factors. They create a discrepancy between the potential level of the learner and his or her academic performance. They also include impairments in terms of difficulties in concentration or attention, language development, and the processing of visual and auditory information. Students with mental, intellectual, or physical disabilities are at risk of experiencing behavioral and learning difficulties in the classroom. The treatment of these disorders requires both an educational management that promotes educational inclusion based on personalized pedagogy, behavioral and psychological therapy (Tursz & Vaivre-Douret, 1999; Berger & Ferrant, 2003).

It has been observed that children with disabilities are at a greater risk of abuse and/or neglect than children without disabilities (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000). A child with a disability is likely to be mistreated than a child without a disability (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000). A child with a disability has difficulty recognizing himself or herself and being recognized as a pupil or a student by his or her colleagues from whom she or he can learn (Scelles & Dayan, 2015). It is also important to emphasize the child’s struggle to express his houghts, words and images and concerns because of his or her impairments and disabilities.

Actors involved in child protection in Haiti: brief diachronic approach

Several NGOs have been working in Haiti to provide a mechanism to address the problems of children at-risk since 1968. These organizations can be classified into two groups. The first group includes NGOs working with socially and economically deprived children. This sector was established way before the creation of IBESR in 1983. These NGOS are known to have made a significant contribution to the problem of child protection and development through international sponsorship programmes. This group includes: Compassion International, World Vision, Plan International, etc. The second group is made of organizations working with IBESR as the central authority on child protection e.g., UNICEF, Terre des Hommes de Lausanne, Handicap International and Bethany Christian Services Global (BCSG). These institutions work in partnership with IBESR setting up a foster care system for children.

Various institutions support IBESR in the fight against child domesticity. These include: Aba Sistèm Restavèk (ASR), World Orphans, TIMKATEK, Fondation Maurice Sixto, Restavèk Freedom, Free the Slaves, Beyond Borders, Church World Service, etc. Others have introduced a new approach to child protection. This involves strengthening the economic capacity of families to take care of their children. These organizations are supporting IBESR in its efforts to strengthen the economic capacity of vulnerable families. These organizations include: Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Bethany Christian Services Global (BCSG), etc. Additionally, there are those involved in family reunification of children in institutions, children in prison and street children. This is the case for institutions such as: AVSI, Fondation Zanmi Timoun and Foyer Lescal.

There is also a category of institutions that give priority to the education of children with physical or mental disabilities. These institutions offer therapeutic services to children with learning difficulties. This is the case for : Centre St François (Ile à Vache), Danita’s Children Home (Ouanaminthe), Melissa of Hope (Cité Soleil), Centre Monfort (Croix-des-Bouquets), Centre de Simulation et de Nutrition (Carrefour), Centre Sainte Helene (Kenskoff) of the Little Brothers and Sisters Hospital, Maison des Enfants Handicapés (Delmas), La Petite Béquille (Delmas), Mercy and Sharing (Arcahaie), My Life Speaks (Léogane), HIS Home for Children (Delmas), New Life for Children and Notre Maison (Sarthe), Maison d’Espoir (Port-de-Paix), Children of the Promise (Cap-Haïtien), Saint-Vincent and Centre d’Education Spéciale (Port-au-Prince).

It is also observed that students with disabilities in the formal basic school system are neglected by the above-mentioned institutions. The accommodation provided to the students in the Grand’Anse school system challenges teachers and school principals to reflect on the strategies that need to be implemented to guide their teaching/learning toward full inclusion. Some observers and researchers in psychology and sciences of education, including GIECLAT, support this idea.

Preliminary findings of the fieldwork 

On-site observation and interviews showed that the 22 schools involved in the research practice full inclusion that is mixed students with various abilities. These public and non-public schools located in the communes and communal sections of Grand’Anse nevertheless have structures that are not quite suitable for students with disabilities. Two thousand two hundred and forty-six (2 246) students from the first to the third year of primary education were observed. The purpose of this observation was to identify disability signs among students. Of 2 246 students observed, 490 showed signs of impairment. Table 01 below shows the different schools that participated in the study, as well as the number and percentage of students showing signs of disability.

Table 01: Distribution of visited schools based on number of students enrolled, students observed, and impairments identified.  Data collected in selected schools
Schools Number of students
Students observed
Students with an impairment Percentage of observed students with impairment
École Nationale des Gommiers 90 83 53 63.85%
École Maranatha de Marfranc 100 76 10 13.15%
École Fondation Antoine de Dame-Marie 144 123 8 6.50%
École Nationale de Léon 138 107 53 49.53%
École CREP Tête Negresse 93 85 15 17.64%
École Adventiste de Beaumont 89 81 11 13.58%
École Notre-Dame de Lourdes de Tozia 59 39 29 74.35%
École Institution Mixte Joseph C. Bernard 154 134 17 12.68%
École Nationale Dumarsais Estimé 104 98 13 13.26%
École Mixte Saint-Joseph 176 176 11 6.25%
École Nationale Derisma Saint-Louis 118 97 20 20.61%
École Mixte Manitane de Dame-Marie 95 85 2 2.35%
École Notre-Dame de Lourdes 49 45 17 37.78%
École Mixte Herdem de Marfranc 50 32 10 31.25%
École Nationale Nouvelle de Marfranc 88 88 16 18.18%
École Fondamentale d’Application de Dame-Marie 111 95 13 13.68%
École Nationale Nouvelle de Chambellan 233 179 33 18.43%
École Nationale d’Astier de Corail 113 75 25 33.33%
Institution Évangélique Emmanuel 60 60 20 33.33%
École Mixte Eben-Ezer de Les Irois 175 169 53 31.36%
École Nationale de St-Victor 77 44 27 61.36%
École Nationale Saint-Jean Bosco de Corail 188 13 34 12.36%
TOTAL 2329 1720 490 22.00%

This table shows that the public schools of Gommiers and St-Victor have a rate of students with disabilities equal to or greater than 64%. It is important to note that these schools are mostly public educational institutions. In contrast to the Mixte Maritane de Dame-Marie, Mixte St. Joseph and Fondation Antoine de Dame-Marie schools, which have far fewer than 7% of their pupils with disabilities. These schools are classified in the non-public category.

The observations also show us that in many schools, teaching practices are not at all adapted to the individual characteristics of the students. This problem is also related to the level of professional training of teachers. The physical environment of these schools’ leaves something to be desired. One can mention the absence of a sanitary block, cafeteria, playground and teaching materials in the classrooms. Other problems are related to the individual characteristics of the learner, such as the distance travelled to school, the status of the child in the family, the socio-economic situation of the family and the learner’s deficiencies.

The observation in situ allowed us to identify several types of disabilities, which are classified into five categories: learning disabilities (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, dysorthographia, dysphasia, etc.), behavioral or conduct disorders (attention deficit, hyperactivity, impulsivity, etc.), mental disorders (depression, bipolar affective disorder, psychosis, dementia, autism, intellectual disability, etc.), language disorders (aphasia, dysphasia, dysarthria, stuttering, oral apraxia, dyslexia, dysphonia, etc.) and physical disabilities (motor, visual, psychic, auditory, etc.).  It is important to note that not all schools recorded the same type of disability, but for each field of observation a major type of disability was identified. Table 02 below presents the most recurrent types of disability identified among the 490 students attending the 22 selected schools.

Table 02: Distribution of schools according to the type (s) of impairment. Data collected in Grand Anse schools
School names
Type of impairment frequently identified
École Nationale des Gommiers Learning disorders Troubles (dyslexia, dysorthographia)
École Maranatha de Marfranc Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia)
École Fondation Antoine de Dame Marie Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia), physical impairment and mental disorders
École Nationale de Léon Learning disorders Troubles (dyslexia, dysorthographia)
École CREP Tête Negresse Learning disorders (dyslexia) and behavior disorders (hyperactivity)
École Adventiste de Beaumont Learning disorders (dysgraphia)
École Notre Dame de Lourdes de Tozia Behavior disorders (attention deficit, hyperactivity)
École Institution Mixte Joseph C. Bernard Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia)
École Nationale Dumarsais Estimé Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia), physical impairment (auditive)
École Mixte Saint-Joseph Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia), sensory impairment (visual)
École Nationale Dérisma Saint-Louis earning disorders (dyslexia), behavior disorders (attention deficit), physical disorder (auditive)
École Mixte Manitane de Dame-Marie Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia), sensory impairment (visual)
École Notre Dame de Lourdes Learning disorders (dysgraphia) and language disorders (aphasia)
École Mixte Herdem de Marfranc Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and dysorthographia)
École Nationale Nouvelle de Marfranc Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia)
École EFA de Dame-Marie Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia) and language disorders (aphasia)
École Nationale de St-Victor d’Abricots Learning disorders (dyslexia) and behavior disorders (hyperactivity)
École Nationale nouvelle de chambellan Learning disorders (dyslexia, dysgraphia and dysorthographia)
École Nationale d’Astier de Corail Learning disorders (dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysorthographia) and physical impairment (laterality)
Institution Évangélique Emmanuel de Corail Learning disorders (dyslexia and dysorthographia)
École Mixte Eben-Ezer de Les Irois Learning disorders (dyslexia and dysorthographia)
École Nationale Saint-Jean Bosco de Corail Learning disorders (dyscalculia, dysgraphia and dysorthographia)

This table shows that learning disorders are present in 21 out of 22 schools, i.e. 95.45% of the schools under study, compared to 4, i.e. 18.18% with behavioral problems. These learning disorders are manifested by traits such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dysorthographia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and some comprehension difficulties. It is important to note that the problem of dyslexia has been identified in 17 out of 21 or 80.95% of schools with learning disabilities. Hyperactivity is also the most recurrent behavioral or conduct problem. Then come traits such as attention deficit and impulsivity.

These data reveal the need for further research on the issue of learners with disabilities in schools. Teachers must take into account students’ individual characteristics in order to promote their safety and autonomy and mobilize the psychological factors conducive to their participation and facilitate understanding of instructions and advice (Garel, 2003b). The protection of students with disabilities in educational establishments depends to a large extent on the way in which the issue of didactic and pedagogical adaptation is approached (Déméro, 2017). In general, teachers are not equipped to deal effectively with diverse groups of students.


So far, public policies on child protection are not achieving satisfactory results with learners with disabilities. Despite the efforts of the Government and civil society to address the problem of education, the specific protection needs of this category of students are in practice not being addressed. While children at risk benefit from some forms of protection implemented by IBESR and partner NGOs in terms of foster care, family preservation and reunification, these forms of protection do not always respect their right to education with regard to the psycho-pedagogical measures that should be adopted and taken by the public education system. Disability, as understood in this research, cannot be considered solely from a biomedical point of view in terms of the health of the child (Gilbert, 2011), but from a legal and psycho-pedagogical point of view. Moreover, it must be understood today as a complex process involving interactions between the child and his or her physical and social environment.


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