Neika Charles is a part of the Inaugural 2015 Joseph School class. She is 10 years old and now in the 6th grade. Her journey began at our original location, a residential house, with 29 other pupils, four teachers and a much smaller support team than we have now. Neika has grown with the school, both in the literal and physical sense. She is an excellent pupil, one of the top three in her class, and has never been in trouble. She’s quiet and shy, but very sharp.
A few weeks before our new academic year was set to begin, our Director of Operations, Bildad Michel, received a Facebook message from Neika.
She wrote, “Hey Mr. Bildad! I just want you to know that I miss you so much, but I am also very upset.”
Neika continued to explain, “COVID-19 has been hard on everyone. During the shutdown, I have been trying to tutor my younger brother at home. I want my brother to be able to attend the Joseph School as well. He passed the entrance exam, the first one. However, on the second entrance exam, he only made a 72. Sadly, there was just one student who scored higher than my brother. Therefore, TJS did not accept my little brother. I thought that because of me, his sister, and my being a good TJS student, the school would take him. They did not! I am sad. I am worried about the kind of education my brother will receive in Haiti. Mr. Bildad, I really wish that my brother could be in the same school as me. I really love my school and I want the same for my little brother.”
The pain and concern in Neika’s response was evident, and many aspects of her message were true. The Joseph School conducts two pre-assessments for children living in the surrounding Cabaret area, but can only accept 30 students per class. To be fair, TJS accepts the top 30 scores, regardless of the child’s relationship to a staff member, community leader or a sibling already attending the school.
Bildad, saddened by her complaint but having very little authority on academic decisions, advised Neika to share her views with Madam Rose Amede, the principal of TJS. She followed his advice by drafting an equally touching letter and delivered it to Madam Rose on the first day of classes*.
After receiving the letter, Madam Rose met with the lead education team, shared the letter and explained the situation. It was a bittersweet moment for the team. Although Neika is considered a star pupil and her parents have never missed a service opportunity for the school, Madam Rose knew she was unable to grant Neika’s request. The team wanted to accept her brother, but knew they had to do the right thing. Oftentimes, leaders have to make decisions with their heads and not their hearts.
Neika was told the painful truth, and the class roster remained the same. However, on the fourth day of classes, the parents of one of the new students withdrew their child for reasons known only to them. Losing a student is hard, but it also opened a spot for the next highest scoring prospect — Neika’s little brother. Perhaps God was touched by Neika’s letter, too.
Today, Neika’s brother, Jicknel, sits proudly in the first-grade class, studying hard to make his sister proud.
*Nieka’s letter, translated from her native Haitian Creole, went like this:
Good morning Madam Rose and all of the Administration of TJS! How are you guys? I pray all of you are doing great by the grace of God. I am doing really well. I write to you this letter which is concerning my little brother who came to test. His score was not accepted. I would like for TJS to admit him. I want my little brother to attend the same school with me. I was admitted to the very first class at The Joseph School. I always have great grades and an excellent grade point average. I never get in trouble. I promise you that if you give my little brother a chance, I will work with him at home. I will encourage him so that he will be a great student like me. I will make sure, his grade point average is good. I really love my school. I would like for him to receive the same level of education like me. I am counting on you. I would like to hear your answer to my request in a time that is not too late. Receive my distinguished salutation, Neika Charles