September 5, 2001

Haitian education minister resigns

                 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- Haitian Education Minister Georges
                 Merisier said Wednesday he had resigned, but declined to explain the
                 reason for his departure just a day after the start of the school year.

                 Merisier, a former staff member of the education office who was sworn in
                 March 2 with the Cabinet of Prime Minister Jean-Marie Cherestal, stepped
                 down Tuesda y, he told Reuters.

                 "It's true that I resigned and that I sent a letter to Aristide and Cherestal," he
                 said. The resignation letter has not been made public.

                 Despite pressure from teacher unions and struggling parents to postpone the
                 opening day of classes, schools opened their doors Monday. Merisier said the
                 school year needed to be extended to improve Haiti's quality of education.

                 Like other Haitian institutions, the education system suffers from the country's
                 grinding poverty. Schools seldom have enough desks and materials for students
                 and adult literacy is about 45 percent.

                 Many Haitian parents struggle to find money for uniforms, books and tuition.
                 Turnout for the first three days of school was light, local radio stations and
                 teachers reported, even though the government provided some uniforms, books
                 and transportation.

                 Only 45 percent of children attend primary school, according to the U.S. State
                 Department. The Haitian government said just 15 percent attend secondary

                 Haiti, the Americas' poorest country, is struggling to strengthen its democratic
                 institutions after decades of dictatorship and military rule.

                 A political impasse between Aristide's ruling Lavalas Family party and his
                 political opposition over flawed legislative elections in May 2000 has resulted in
                 the suspension of more than $500 million in desperately needed foreign aid.

                   Copyright 2001 Reuters.