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Haiti, also known officially as the Republic of Haiti, is a sovereign nation located on the western and much smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea.  Hispaniola is part of the Greater Antillean archipelago and is one of only a few islands in the world to host two countries, as the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern and larger portion of the island.  Once known by the name Ayiti, the name given the island by the indigenous Taino or Amerindian people meaning “land of high mountains,” Haiti has a total land area of nearly 11,000 square miles.  The capital and largest city in Haiti is Port-au-Prince.
 
As of the last census in 2011, Haiti had a permanent population of approximately 9.7 million and a population density of over 907 people per square mile, making it one of the densest island countries in the world.  To make matters worse, the majority of the population is concentrated in the country’s urban areas, coastal plains and villages, where it is not uncommon to see thousands of people occupying each square mile.  Statistics show that over 85 percent of Haiti’s population is of African descent, with much of the remainder being of mixed African and white race, also called mulatto.  Smaller minority groups in the country include people of European descent (French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish), Arabs, Armenians, Asians and East Indians.  The principal language in Haiti is French.  It is used administratively for all public communications, and is the primary language in schools, government and commerce and widely spoken by the well-educated minority in Haiti.  Haitian Creole is also a recognized language in the country—a mix of French and a variety of native African languages that is spoken most commonly among the Haitian people.
 
Christianity is the predominant faith in Haiti, particularly Roman Catholicism, of which over 80% of Haitians profess to follow.  Various protestant religions are practiced by nearly 16 percent of the Haitian people, and a small minority of inhabitants practices a combination of Christianity and Voodoo.
 
Education in Haiti
 
The education system in Haiti is under the direction of the national government, namely the Ministry of Education.  The structure of the system is based on that of the French and includes three stages:  primary school, secondary school and higher education.
 
While public education is provided free for all students, nearly 90 percent of the educational institutions in Haiti are non-public, managed by specific communities and religious organizations, including many operated by the Catholic Church.  The primary school enrollment rate in Haiti is a reported 65 percent, one of the lowest in the world, and fewer than 30 percent of students who do attend school will reach the sixth grade.  Even worse, only 20 percent of eligible students are enrolled at the secondary school level, and of those, only a small percentage will continue their education at the tertiary or university level.
 
Higher education in Haiti is provided by a handful of universities and other public and private institutions, whose focus is on providing vocational and technical education.  Universities are attended almost exclusively by students of wealthy or upper middle class families, offering both undergraduate and graduate degree programs leading to bachelor and Master’s degrees in a select number of academic fields and specialties.
 
The poor level of educational attainment in Haiti is perhaps best reflected by the national adult literacy rate:  only 55 percent and one of the worst in the Caribbean and the world.

Map of Haiti

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