School shares tragedy of quake horror

Fate of one group of Haitian pupils and teachers emerges amid chaotic aftermath of disaster

David Matthews

When the earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday last week, the tremors destroyed every type of building - including schools.

Reports abound of entire schools being turned to rubble, killing or trapping hundreds of students inside.

While overall numbers of casualties are still far from clear, the fate of one school community has emerged from the devastated island.

Union School is situated in the relatively affluent suburb of Petionville, to the south-east of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

But even here the disaster has meant chaos and tragedy, with one teacher dead.

However, from the trickle of information leaving the island it appears that most of Union's staff and students had a lucky escape.

When the quake hit at around 4.50pm local time on January 12, the school day had finished for most children and teachers. Those who were still in school managed to get out unharmed when the tremors began.

Nadia Durban, learning centre co-ordinator at the school, said: "We were fortunate that the quake took place after school hours. However, there were some staff members and a few children still on the premises. Everyone came out alive."

Unlike many schools which were almost completely destroyed by the earthquake, Ms Durban said that the school's two buildings had not collapsed.

"(The school) has been damaged, but is still standing. We are awaiting engineers to estimate the severity of the damage," she said.

Although the school survive drelatively intact, one staff member died away from the premises, Ms Durban reported.

"It has been confirmed that our gym teacher, a young Haitian man of about 25, perished although I do not have complete details yet," she said.

The private Union School, which celebrated its 90th anniversary last year, teaches an American-style curriculum in English to 307 pupils and is staffed by Haitians, Canadians and Americans.

With phone lines down, Twitter has been one of the only ways for anxious relatives and friends to get news.

The day after the quake, one user posted: "Steven Kirby, Meaghan Balzer and other staff from Union School in Haiti are OK at the Red Cross Canada in Haiti. Thank God!"

The Office of Overseas Schools at the US Department of State said that several international schools were mobilising help for Union School.


'Can't even spell Haiti'

Clifford W. Ashley

The kids in my classes can't spell it, have never heard of it, didn't know that an earthquake had happened and weren't bothered when I mentioned it to them.

The Pobble

We have been supporting Rapid-UK for some time! Usual raft of money-raising ideas.


I work at a Catholic school so have been using news clips as part of my reflection at the start of each lesson. I have also arranged to have a non-uniform day and will be donating money via Cafod.

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David Matthews

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