The High Commissioner in Haiti (Russell) to the Secretary of State

No. 1565

Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 1564 of November 25, 1929, I have the honor to report that the striking students finally decided not to return to Damien and the medical and law students decided to continue their sympathetic strike. Their forces have also been augmented by the upper classes of two of the Brothers Schools.

On Monday, November 25, 1929, I presented to President Borno the attached memorandum, suggesting that the Damien situation be handled as I have outlined, but President Borno desired to wait several days in order to give Mr. Price, the new Minister of Public Instruction, an opportunity to settle the matter.

There appears in the Opposition paper L’Haitien the attached letter11 addressed to the striking students ostensibly by the students of the school, but I am informed that the letter was written by one of the Sisters of the school for the students to sign. Reports that I have received from different sources indicate that the French Brothers are at least secretly assisting the striking students.

I have [etc.]

John H. Russell

The American High Commissioner (Russell) to President Borno


Understanding that the striking students of the Ecole Centrale will not, in spite of the Presidential Arrete of November 18, 1920, return to their classes, it is considered appropriate to take proper steps to meet the new situation.

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The Ecole Centrale was formed primarily for the purpose of training agricultural and industrial teachers to be placed as such in the rural farm schools in the country and in industrial schools in the cities.

In view of the lack of education of the country boys, it was necessary in the beginning to obtain the students for the Ecole Centrale from the cities and a large majority was taken from Port-au-Prince. It was realized by the Service Technique that this student material was not the best inasmuch as it was drawn from a class that was not accustomed to manual labor and was even prejudiced against it. It was thought, however, that this obstacle could temporarily be overcome by the creation of a sufficient incentive, and for this purpose “bourses” were established. The student thereby not only received free tuition from the Government but was paid for going to school.

The method of selection of city boys was designed, however, to be only temporary. The rural farm schools, it was hoped, would eventually furnish the student personnel for the Ecole Centrale. The most intelligent boys in the rural farm schools being sent to secondary schools such as Plaisance, where they would pursue higher grades of studies that would fit them to take up the course at the Ecole Centrale. At the present time such a class is at Plaisance. The boys live at the school and some have successfully completed their first year and are now on their second year of the course.

These boys, coming from the rural districts, are accustomed to work. They have no such prejudices as apparently preclude, at the present time, a majority of the city boys from undertaking courses where they have to engage in manual labor and in whom time alone and a change in the condition of the country can only inculcate a realization of the dignity of labor. Unfortunately, a crisis occurred before the Service Technique had had sufficient time to develop its plan as outlined above, of obtaining its student material for the Ecole Centrale from the rural districts. The situation is now apparently acute and it becomes necessary to take immediate action to meet it. The following plan is, therefore, suggested:

The Service Technique feels confident that within the course of two or three weeks, it could assemble at the Ecole Centrale (Damien) thirty or forty young men taken from the cities and rural districts of Haiti, who are accustomed to work. Work has no repugnance for them and in addition, they have an education sufficient to permit of their pursuing a course at the Ecole Centrale.

As these young men would come from distant sections of the Republic, it would be necessary and desirable to furnish accommodations for them at the school at Damien. Until a suitable dormitory can be erected, the students would be housed in one of the large rooms of the school building, cots and bedding being furnished by the [Page 181] school. There is at present a restaurant service at Damien which could be easily extended to provide meals at a low cost for these young men. The payment for board, towels, and accessories, could be accomplished either by giving a “bourse” of seventy-five Gourdes per month to each student and deducting from it the amount necessary for board and accessories, or by the Government employing a part of the funds now devoted to “bourses” to the payment of board and lodging for the students. If payment is made in the nature of “bourses”, such aid will not be withdrawn so long as the student makes an average passing grade in his scholastic work and gives reasonable satisfaction in his practical work.

The bourses thus applied should be given to all and if necessary slightly increased to permit of students having a certain amount of spending money for the purchase of necessary clothing and other articles.

Since the students will be required to live at the Ecole Centrale, it will no longer be necessary to run the busses between Port-au-Prince and the Ecole Centrale and the money thus saved on transportation can be devoted to the purchase of material for the immediate construction of a temporary dormitory which will comfortably house the students. It is thought that if such material is thus purchased, the industrial section of the student body might, the course of studies being so arranged, devote the afternoons to practical work in assisting in the building of the dormitory.

Students thus entering this government school should be required to sign an obligation to abide by the school regulations.

In order to put the above suggestions into effect, it would only be necessary for the issuance of a Presidential Arrete to the effect that the students of the Ecole Centrale not having availed themselves of the provisions of said arrêté shall be dropped from the rolls of the school. The Service Technique will, of course, have to be instructed to carry out the above outlined suggestions.

If the above meets with approval, it is important to recognize that no publicity should be given to it. The old student body would be dropped. The Service Technique would unostentatiously recruit the new student body and the school would take up its normal function of training teachers before the public was aware that it had resumed its activities.

  1. Not printed.