DEBORAH AMOS, host:
We're going to get an update on Haiti now. The earthquake was five months ago and many Haitians still rely on aid from the rest of the world. NPR's Planet Money team found out that while aid might help some, it can unintentionally make life difficult for others, especially Haitians outside of the earthquake zone. Adam Davidson and Caitlin Kenney report.
ADAM DAVIDSON: We went to L'Artibonite, which was undamaged. It's two hours north of Port-au-Prince.
CAITLIN KENNEY: When you drive into town, you see rice immediately and everywhere. There's people working out in the rice fields, huge tarps of rice laying out drying in the sun, women carrying huge bags of rice on their heads. And the local market is filled with rice sellers.
DAVIDSON: Rice is the staple food in Haiti. Every meal has rice.
KENNEY: We pull off the road and talk to one woman who's getting her rice ready for planting. Her name is Mirana Honorable. She prefers Madame Claude(ph).
Ms. MIRANA HONORABLE (Rice Farmer): (Foreign language spoken)
KENNEY: She says that even though there was no damage here in l'Artibonite, life has been terrible since the earthquake.
DAVIDSON: People down south, where the damage is, are getting rice for really cheap or for free from all the aid groups - mostly rice imported from America. Madame Claude says it's really hard for the farmers here to compete with free rice, so they're making a lot less money.
KENNEY: She's now facing an unimaginable choice. She and her kids can eat the rice she has, but then she won't have any to sell. Or she can sell the rice and her family will go hungry. Right now that's what she's doing. She's doing it for her kids. She needs the money to pay for their school.
DAVIDSON: She doesn't want her kids to end up doing what she does, she says -scratch out a tiny living from rice. She says she dreams that one day her kids could be doctors or lawyers or engineers.
KENNEY: She says most of the farmers here are like her - they're sacrificing so that their kids can get an education. It's the only way. She says if you want to understand a farmer's life here, what they're working for, you have to meet their kids. You have to visit the school. So she asks: You want to come? I can take you there.
DAVIDSON: We walk in and the kids do what apparently they always do for visitors: They stand up and sing the welcome song.
Unidentified Group: (Singing in foreign language)
DAVIDSON: Merci. Then the kids get down to business. Fifth grade: French class.
Unidentified Woman #1: (Speaking in foreign language)
DAVIDSON: Fourth grade: mathematics.
Unidentified Woman #2: (Speaking in foreign language)
Unidentified Man #2: (Speaking in foreign language)
KENNEY: While we're in the classroom, I noticed that the teacher spends a lot of time writing full paragraphs on the chalkboard - it was nearly full. And later he tell us thats because he wants the kids who can't afford the books to be able to write down the lessons.
DAVIDSON: The school certainly can't afford to give the kids textbooks or even notebooks. They can't afford to pay the teachers every month. The principal, Enselm Simpliste, tells us that the teachers stick around because they all went to school here and want to help.
KENNEY: Here's what else the school can't afford: a school building. Classes are taking place in a small one-room church. There's blackboards precariously leaning against the walls. Kids are sitting in pews and they're trying to awkwardly take notes in their laps.
Outside in back, the little kids are under a tarp and everywhere you go it's so hot that it's hard to breathe.
DAVIDSON: Principal Simpliste takes out the school's financial records, all written by hand on a few sheets of loose-leaf paper. It shows how much each family owes the school. Tuition is 350 Haitian dollars, thats around 45 bucks U.S. Each sheet of paper has a list of all the kids from a grade. Next to each kid's name is a number - how much his or her parents owe the school.
So this is like sixth-grade: Charles 350, Bernard 150, Jerome 250, Cerose(ph) 50. So in the entire sixth grade, one kid paid most of his account and the majority paid nothing.
Mr. ENSELM SIMPLISTE (Principal): (Through Translator) Yes. Yes, exactly.
KENNEY: He says that we never get all the money, but most years they get enough to get by. This year, with all the problems in the rice market, they're barely getting anything. But the principal says he's not mad at the NGOs that gave out all that free rice down south, which might have hurt the rice growers here. He says people need to eat and it's good for others to help Haitians.
But he says he's sad because there hasnt been any help up here where he lives, away from the earthquake zone. He says one foreigner came a few months and asked what the school needed but they haven't heard from him since.
DAVIDSON: Principal Simpliste says this is a particularly tough time for the rice farmers of L'Artibonite. But as long as the parents are willing to sacrifice what little they have to send their kids to school, he'll make sure to keep classes open.
(Soundbite of children)
DAVIDSON: Adam Davidson.
KENNEY: Caitlin Kenney, NPR News, Haiti.
AMOS: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.