Want to send this page or a link to a friend? Click on mail at the top of this window.
More Editorials
Posted May 27, 2002
Haitian businessmen in 'Get-Rich-Quick Scheme' prey on lesser educated
By Jacques Dady Jean
May 27, 2002

"No GED, No high school diploma, No English is needed to become a computer specialist, a program developer or a network specialist and start a job for $45 per hour."

Recently, we have observed a wave of computer training schools in the Haitian community. These basic computer-training programs have sessions that last from 4 to 12 weeks and charge between $2,000 and $3,000 per student. Owners of these "schools" set unrealistic expectations in order to mislead lesser educated Haitians by persuading them to believe that they can become computer technicians, network engineers and even software engineers in three months or less and start making 45 to 75 thousand dollars a year. In addition, they promote that idea that candidates don't need to speak English (classes are taught in Creole); they don't need a GED or high school diploma.

This may sound ridiculous for many, but this is the kind of model that is being endorsed by many so-called community leaders. Countless Haitians have become victims of these scams; especially the lesser educated who are devoted to improving their education in the pursuit of the American dream.

I am a listener of Haitian Creole broadcasting, and to tell the truth I never pay much attention to these shameful advertising slogans. Maybe I did not believe that a businessman would downsize his integrity to that level or because the low power radio station that is promoting the school wants to be a champion in community education. Until one day, a guidance counselor from one of the Boston Public Schools, that spent many years in Haiti and mastered the Creole language, brought this to my attention. He said the decline of intrinsic values and moral integrity in the Haitian community may greatly affect the young Haitian generation. This man is white but his thoughts were not motivated by racism at all. In fact, he married a Haitian woman, and lived in Haiti and raised his children as Haitians. From his words anyone can feel his attachment to Haiti.

The guidance counselor pulled a small tape recorder and played this ad and other promotional interviews where spokespersons for several computer training schools are trying to convince Haitians that they don't need to go to college. One of them even compares his basic computer training business to MIT, and claimed, for the record, that he hires professors from MIT to teach his computer class. Should state authorities persecute these people for lying with the intention to commit fraud?

These are people who are born to live as crooks; their lives consist of decades of turmoil. They cannot live a peaceful life as an honest citizen, and every time they commit a deceitful action, the community is tolerant and lets them escape from justice. They have a complete disregard for their victims and because they can get away with their crime easily they are motivated to engage in another illegal practices. Very often those evildoers are hiding behind the notoriety of a leader or the popularity of a political group until Abraham says: enough is enough. "You can fool a community many times but not all the time."

In this community, some people deal with their failure as a medal of glory, is it erroneous that under-educated Haitians are in charge of almost every organization in a community where there are so many doctors, college professors and others educated personalities? In any civilized society, the intellectual elite leads organizations because competency is measured based on skill, knowledge and education, not on intrigue and the size of your mouth. Is it erroneous that the Haitian-American Media Association has to lower its standard to high school diploma because only a few Haitian journalists have earned an associate's degree? Does anyone feel comfortable to have a Haitian Unity Parade for two years and the members of the committee in charge cannot have an article printed in even the smallest local newspaper?

There is no other way to empower a community then encouraging people to go to college and receive a formal education. The power of a community resides in the ability of its members to create economic opportunities. To do so, a leader must be educated. If you fail to have a good education that does not mean that your child or any child in the neighborhood should follow your path.

These businesses that offer basic computer training would have rendered a great service to this community if they applied a little bit of ethics, honesty and moral values to their operation. Leaders in all of the ethnic communities should be encouraging people in their community to learn English. The best gift that the Asian community of Boston gives to their people is the mastering of English, for this reason they are so successful. Maybe there is no legal action to take against those who abuse the privilege of living in a free society but citizens still have the responsibility to hold them accountable for their actions in the community.

In today's competitive industry, a high school diploma is required for the most basic position available. How can someone become a network engineer or a computer technician without a high school diploma? How can someone comprehend the fundamentals of digital techniques, which is the base of computer technology, without basic math skills? How can someone become a programmer without basic calculus?

To agree with the guidance counselor, these schools represent a serious danger for this community. When our fellow citizens become aware that the intention of these schools was not to teach computer skills but to steal their money, they become frustrated and stressed.

Do we have a responsibility as members of this community to blow the whistle and alert our community about this ongoing criminal activity?

Business leaders cannot take for granted that the values they hold are common to their customers and other constituents in their community. For this reason, I personally think that the first step for business leaders, who are hoping to create an ethical climate in their company, is to recognize the values they look upon as vital if business is to function effectively and make a positive contribution to the society.

To make my point even more clear, as a businessperson, I emphasize a set core of ethical values, and I will do my best to discuss the implications of a commitment to these values.

Ethical values are different from personal desires or business objectives. A school, like any other business, cannot be created with the only intention to make money, but to serve a purpose; in the case of a school, the primary purpose is to educate people. These ethical values are found in diverse religions and moral philosophies; they also arise from our common participation in society and thus respond to specific individual and social needs. Trustworthiness and commitments make planning and coordination possible.

Unfortunately, our community severely lacks these ethical values that enhance human freedom.

I had interviews with two gentlemen that I wanted to hire. They didn't have a clue about basic computer technology even though they just completed an A+/ Network training from one of these schools. The men were very honest and could not hide their embarrassment. Their stories were outrageous; they went to this computer school located in Dorchester where each of them paid $2,000 for a basic computer-training program. It was already too late when they found out that the institution was not accredited by the college or school accreditation board or by any known organization that has the authority to oversee school accreditation. The instructor was not qualified and did not have any ability to deliver the training that was promised in the advertisement. The men said that a certificate was issued to each of them just a few weeks after the program began, despite the fact that they were still illiterate in basic computer principles. This computer school is still around pushing its advertising to promote that you don't need a GED or high school diploma or even English to become a computer or a network specialist.

In this very competitive market place, to earn any basic employment, good communication is a requirement. Where is the integrity and professional ethics of the Haitian media when they are allowing these greedy citizens to use their airtime for their propaganda? Today, I want to take this occasion to urge my brothers and sisters in Creole broadcasting to take their responsibility. If you want your commitment to this community to sound loud, the moment is yours to show courage and resolve in defending the people in your community.

Ethical values help us to coordinate and guide our individual choices and actions in a world of limited rationality, limited knowledge, and limited sympathies. They provide the foundations for social trust and cooperation and a framework for individual aspirations and constraints that give meaning to more personal objectives. The very centrality of ethical values to our lives and our traditions underlines the need for them to last over time.

Some fundamental ethical values related to the purpose, responsibilities, and conduct of business and of the individuals in that business, sets minimum requirements of conduct, which establishes an operational ground of commitment. It also suggests certain aspirations, which set a tone and establish the possibility for moral improvement. Those of you Haitian journalists, who are concerned about managing the ethical climate of this community, will want to elaborate on these values and consider how they come into play in the advancement of our community.

The starting point for any organization must be a purpose and a set of goals that reflect the organization's obligation to serve the larger community. A community committed to this standard will obviously exclude any evident illegal or immoral activity, such as the selling of cocaine, but it also may rule out certain legal but questionable activities as inconsistent with its self-definition and its moral purpose such as those computer schools that are growing like wild weeds in our community.

A responsible organization, like a responsible individual, will be accountable to the impact of its behavior on others. Many classes of individuals are affected by how a business conducts its affairs. Characteristically, in the Haitian community, the groups that most directly affected are the local communities in which these businesses operate, the newcomers with a lack of English and the general public.

Being responsible to these constituencies' means conducting business in a way that respects their legitimate rights and interests, and is mindful of their concerns and needs. Fulfilling the business responsibilities to its constituencies may require the company to institute systems or procedures for identifying and weighing their concerns, for anticipating and monitoring the impact of its action on these groups, for sometimes involving them in decision-making, and for disseminating information to these groups.

The Haitian media is called to play an important role in promoting honesty, one of the biggest problems that create mistrust among Haitians. There are nearly 30,000 Haitians in Greater Boston, although some politicians erroneously claim 60 to 70,000, but when considering the total population of Mattapan is only 18,000 citizens, it can be concluded that theses numbers are exaggerated. Nevertheless, Haitians represent an important market niche in Boston. Haitian businesses could rely on this market niche if they begin to develop trust and loyalty among their customers.

The avoidance of deception and careless misrepresentation of information on which others may rely is very important. Communication, both internal and external, should be truthful and accurate. In some cases, honesty may require specific disclosures, so that affected parties will have access to relevant information.

Businesses must be providing reliable information. Reliability implies loyalty to promises and other commitments. Making promises that cannot be kept, such as setting the unrealistic expectation to help a computer technician with no experience and no English, making $45,000 a year after the completion of a three month program, or breaking promises when advantageous, undermines the ability of our young fellows to go to college, get a formal education and plan for a stable future.

Competence and quality are subcategories of reliability. Executives, managers, and employees must all strive to perform according to the technical standards required for their jobs, to avoid careless mistakes in the performance of these jobs, and to offer only those goods and services that they are competent to provide. Likewise, the products that a company offers should live up to the performance standards specified or implied for the product. Incompetence, carelessness, or the fabrication of flawed service injures the organization's constituencies and increases the pressure to violate other ethical principles.

Commitment to all these values, as outlined, benefits not only the life of the whole society, but also the internal functioning of an organization and the operation of the economy of our community. Shared value commitments form the basis of trust and cooperation, help the organization avoid legal trouble, and reduce the need for government oversight. They also contribute to the society's morale. People take pride in the success of the organization where ethical values define a way of life, and find strength and reassurance in the knowledge that ethical judgment is expected from them and highly valued. They also strengthen the company's reputation, which makes it easier to do business with members of the community, and other external constituencies.

The ideal climate of social trust that is necessary to the peace, unity and prosperity of this community can only result from common adherence to ethical principles. Individual transgressions, negligence, or passivity can tear apart an ethical climate because that climate is not a static thing but an ongoing process, being constantly molded and changed by the official and unofficial decisions and behaviors of the organization and its various participants.

People in our community perform cowardly action because they don't have the courage to look at their face closely in a mirror and ask themselves who they are. If you are a high school drop out, it is never too late to go to school and have an education. If you did not go to college, you are ignorant and ignorance starts where education begins. You have to recognize your ignorance in order to seek further knowledge. As we are living in a free society, you have the right to lie to yourself and strive to create a false image of being smart and educated; you can call yourself a genius or even a scientist. You can also persuade others to believe in your delusion of grandeur. However, you are still a failure until you become aware of your own ignorance. Your life will be a shame; you will deceive your family, your friends and your community. In this case, you are no longer ignorant but rather stupid.

In this month of Haitian heritage, I am urging my fellow Haitians to remember the typical Haitian father that works endless hours on the farm to pay for the education of his children, to remember the typical mom that sold potatoes and charcoal in the market place to support her child who is attending medical school and those elderly peasants who used to walk miles away to learn how to read after a long day of hard labor. Since we are in the USA and we have enormous opportunities to have an education, let's take advantage of this opportunity, and live as honest great citizens.

Jacques Dady Jean has a bachelor's degree in computer engineering technology and a bachelor's degree in project management. can be reached @ jjean@mattapanonline.org

Wehaitians.com, the scholarly journal of democracy and human rights
More from wehaitians.com
Main / Columns / Books And Arts / Miscellaneous