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The Haitian Teachers Strike: Fighting Back in a Time of Cholera

By Al Leisinger, Mathematics, NTT Grievance Officer


In November, more than 25,000 people demonstrated across Haiti as part of a national teachers strike. Demands of the strike included:

• A minimum salary for teachers and the payment of all back salary due to teachers

• An increase in the number of public schools throughout the country so that all Haitian children can go to school free of charge

• A vaccination campaign against cholera to be conducted in every school and university in order to eradicate cholera from Haiti

In Port-au-Prince striking union teachers became part of a much larger social struggle as thousands of young people took to the streets on the same day to protest the police murder of a student, Damaël D’Haïti, just days before. According to reports on the website Echo Haiti, as the teachers strike morphed into the youth protest, a de facto teacher-student alliance was born, an alliance of union workers with the workers of tomorrow. Fifteen thousand teachers and students marched through the capital, forming a roleau: “a steamroller of the people, like other great resistance movements of Haitian history.”

An epidemic

The strike by teachers and the youth uprising are part of an intense Haitian movement against the United Nations occupation, the cholera epidemic, the economic deprivation, and repression.  This movement is almost unknown here in the United States.


Haiti is in the throes of its first cholera epidemic in more than 100 years. More than 8,000 people have died, while than 500,000 have been sickened—about one out of every 16 Haitians. Cholera is spread by the ingestion of human wastes carrying the Vibrio cholera bacterium. According to the Guardian, the infection was likely carried into Haiti by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal sent to help with disaster relief following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.


The U.N. has so far rejected a lawsuit demanding compensation brought in November 2011 by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a group of lawyers based in Boston. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in Haitia, sought to require the UN to install a national water and sanitation system to control the cholera epidemic, pay compensation to Haitian cholera victims for their losses, and make a public apology for its “wrongful acts”. In February, the U.N. claimed legal immunity and announced that it wouldn’t be compensating any of the victims or their families. ▪


How you can help

Sign the petition: Demands include:  (1) universal vaccination against cholera, beginning with schoolchildren. (2) cholera treatment centers staffed by Haitian health workers; (3) Haitian-wide construction of a modern fresh-water and sewage removal system.


Al Leisinger has been a passionate advocate for Haiti and its people for more than 20 years. After the devastating 2010 earthquake, Al helped organize Direct Aid to Haiti trips in conjunction with a teachers union there. One hundred percent of the donations raised were used to purchase medications and supplies.