When disasters strike, the immediate consequences -- death, destruction, displacement, suffering -- naturally grab headlines. Once the present emergency passes and the situation more or less stabilizes, public attention moves on to new events, leaving larger, slower-to-emerge consequences to develop in relative obscurity.
What a blessing, then, when there rides to the rescue someone with not only the understanding to know that a disaster's worst effects are often the latest to arrive, but also with the clout to command the media spotlight. No less estimable a figure than former U.S. president Bill Clinton has done just this for the Caribbean nation of Haiti, which on January 12, 2010 suffered a devastating earthquake.
The world heaped aid on Haiti in truly generous amounts in the days and weeks following the earthquake, which allowed immediate human needs of shelter, clean water, food, and medical treatment to be met. But former President Clinton, acting through his philanthropic organization, the Clinton Global Initiative, has dedicated himself to assisting Haiti address another challenge: the condition of the country's colleges and universities after the January 12 earthquake.
Here are some facts about the earthquakes effects on Haiti's institutions of higher learning, as presented in a September 21, 2010 eCampus News article:
One cannot overstate the real tragedy reflected in these figures. It stands as a testament to the resiliency and ingenuity of the Haitian people and those who have rallied to their aid that they have decided to meet this challenge in quite a forward thinking manner by creating a free online university. Dubbed The University of the People, this institution, the eCampus News article reports, has announced "that it would join the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in the organization's efforts to help Haiti recover from a Jan. 12 earthquake that killed between 200,000 and 300,000 people, according to government estimates."
The University of the People has set for itself the goal of "enrolling 250 college students from Haiti into its free online programs, including computer science or business administration, over the next three years," the eCampus News article continues, and, toward this end, university officials "have pledged to achieve accreditation in the coming years."
The University of the People's meeting this goal would produce great benefits for all of Haiti, a country that has more or less missed out on the digital revolution. A September 21, 2010 HULIQ article presents these sobering facts about the current state of information-technology infrastructure in Haiti:
The advent of The University of the People promises to rectify this regrettable situation by making information-technology far more widely available. The HULIQ article reports that "[r]ecent studies done by the Haitian community have shown that nearly a quarter of Haiti's population could be moved out of poverty if the government and international community invest in long term technology education."
Improvement on this scale could only mean a brighter future for this tiny island nation. Dark clouds are said to have silver linings. But in Haiti's case, these linings are silicon.