SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Haiti’s government should emphasize education to help the country recover from its devastating earthquake, Wyclef Jean said recently.
The Haitian-born singer and producer said in an interview with The Associated Press that the government and nonprofit organizations should focus on raising the impoverished country’s literacy rate, which stands at 50 percent in a population of 9 million.
“If we’re going to get to the 21st century, I don’t know how we’re going to do that with a population who can’t read or write,” he said.
The quake’s devastation “gives Haiti a new slate,” he said. “We have to think strategic on how we deal with the situation on a level beyond emotions.”
Jean, whose Yele Haiti Foundation is helping with earthquake relief efforts, spoke a day before his scheduled performance at the Billboard Latin Music Awards in Puerto Rico.
He shrugged aside widespread rumors that he might one day run for president of Haiti, saying that’s not part of his plans.
“If I take a job being a president, I can’t do as much as I’m doing for my country,” said Jean, who organized an all-star telethon after the quake that organizers said raised $66 million.
Jean said Haiti needs stronger leadership, but he avoided direct criticism of President Rene Preval, who was barely seen in public in the days after the Jan. 12 quake that killed an estimated 230,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless.
“I can’t criticize President Preval. He did what he could with what he had in his hands. It’s always debatable: Could he have done more? Said more?”
Jean said he is going to Haiti in two weeks to help build temporary shelters for earthquake survivors — a happier task than the one he faced on his first trip home after the quake.
“I was on the ground picking up dead bodies,” he said.