An important part of Fonkoze’s philosophy is that people who are poor need not only microcredit, but other financial and educational services in order to make their way out of poverty. Our education program aims to help our clients meet their basic needs, while developing qualities of leadership and solidarity. Fonkoze's Solidarity Credit clients are women with some experience in commerce or credit, with a certain level of food security, limited life conditions, and a vision for their life. Over 50% of them are illiterate when they join Fonkoze and have had limited acess to formal education. Since 2007, Fonkoze education courses have touched over 81,000 clients in the Solidarity Credit program, with over 30,000 completing more than one education model.
Basic Education Modules
Our education modules last for four months and focus on four basic areas: Basic Literacy, Business Skills, Children's Rights, and Health. 90-95% of initial participants graduate from our program with key skills in literacy, numeracy, and small business management.
The Basic Literacy I & II modules teach clients all of the basic literary skills they need to read and write basic texts in Haitian Creole. They also learn basic numeracy. Basic Literacy I is designed for adults who are completely illiterate and may never have held a pen in their hands before. Basic Literacy II is offered to clients who have already completed the first class or who have some background in reading and writing.
The Business Skills module is designed to make our clients better at running their businesses. A large amount of time is focused on basic record-keeping so that clients can determine if they are actually making a profit (many discover that they are not) and can better manage money that they owe or that is owed to them. Other topics discussed include negotating better prices on inventory and managing customers' credit risk.
The Children's Rights module teaches women and families about the rights of children and how to combat some of the most challenging issues facing children in Haiti. Lessons include conflict management, bullying, and child servitude. The curriculum encourages Fonkoze members to discuss these topics in detail and to confront the challenges they face.
The Health module, developed in consultation with Paul Farmer's Partners in Health (PIH) and the Fonkoze Health Department, covers a wide range of topics from germs and diseases to how and when to seek medical attention. In Haiti, many families are driven further into poverty by serious illnesses in their family. Without addressing the issue of health, the fight against poverty in Haiti is extremely challenging.
Our education models use both peer-to-peer education and participatory methods. The educational materials are colorful, practical, user- and cultural-friendly, and they generate rave reviews from our clients. In many cases, the booklets are the only color books that the family owns. Fonkoze has shared its modules with development partners in Haiti, the US, and overseas.
We used to only receive enough funding to provide education in about 1/3 of our branches each year. But in 2011, Director of Education Laurence Camille developed a program called Ti Koze to provide every Fonkoze client with some basic education each month. Its full name is Ti Koze nan Sant La, or "Little Chat in the Center," and it uses a richly illustrated storybook to communicate with clients who often struggle to read. The program uses "reflection circles" to complement Haiti's storytelling tradition and to discuss issues true to clients' experience, and it downplays the credit agent's role, allowing the center chief (the woman chosen as group leader) to direct the meeting.