by Viviane Jeannie, Scholars Coordinator, Madagascar
Part of my job as scholarship coordinator is to purchase school materials for each new school year for all of our sponsored students. In the 2012 – 2013 school year, that meant shopping for 194 students!
To do this, my team and I had to travel to Toliara, from our home base in Andavadoaka, at least an eight-hour drive away. We left on a Sunday at 7am to make sure we would make it to Toliara by nightfall. The road to Toliara is quite difficult to maneuver and you must always be prepared for a breakdown or flat tire since it’s quite sandy and bumpy. However, it is also quite an exciting drive! The road takes you through a baobab forest and alongside mangroves lining the beautiful coastline, with spectacular views of the sea. We saw many different species of plants, such as tamarind trees, octopus trees and agave plants, and many birds, zebus and goats – an interesting and unique landscape indeed.
After nearly nine hours of bumping along, we arrived at the Blue Ventures office in Toliara. Coming from Andavadoaka, a quiet, small village, we were not used to the noises and traffic of the city; we had to make sure to pay special attention to all of the “pousse pousse”, or bike and foot-drawn rickshaws, people, and cars seemingly zooming by from all directions to avoid a collision. However, the danger may have just been in our heads…
Our real mission started the next morning. First, we walked all around town to compare prices of supplies in the market, also known as the “bazar-be” de Toliara, and some shops. We decided on a shop that gave us a good deal and the owner prepared our entire order of materials for us to pick up the next day. We returned the next to day find 30 or so boxes waiting for us – full of more than 2,000 notebooks, over 400 pens, countless rulers, erasers, chalk, and small blackboards for the younger kids. We had to load all of the supplies onto a big wooden pushcart to bring them across town to the office, and thankfully a few strong men offered to help us out.
Each class needs a different combination of materials, so we divided them into individual kits for the different classes. This year it was quite an undertaking since we have students spanning all levels, from ‘maternelle’ to ‘terminale’ – kindergarten through to secondary school! They study in Andavadoaka through ‘troisième’ or grade three, and then they have to move to Morombe or Tulear to continue their studies since there is no ‘lycée’ or secondary school in Andavadoaka.
We choose our scholars based on their interest in attending school combined with the financial need of their families. Per Chantella, a BV scholar in grade two, is from Andavadoaka. She doesn’t have a father and her mother can’t pay for her schooling or school materials, but she is very bright and the best student in her class. She hopes to continue her studies and one day attend university.
Ramarolhari Bien Aimé, another BV scholar in grade three is from Befandefa, a small village about two hours walking distance from Andavadoaka. He is an orphan and has no one that can take care of him. In the 2010-2011 school year a priest in Andavadoaka paid for his school fees and food, but he left Andavadoaka so we decided to take Ramarolhair as one of our scholars. He is receiving assistance with school fees as well as food, fuel in winter and for his housing. As you can see, the scholars we work with are truly deserving and provided us the motivation for our big trip to Toliara.
After we loaded the car full of supplies, we made the long trek back to Andavadoaka. While we enjoyed the comfort and excitement of living in the big city for a few days, we were happy to return to our village, with its beautiful sunsets, tranquility and awaiting scholars. Next on the agenda is meeting with all 194 students and their parents to hand out materials, sign contracts for the upcoming semesters, and officially launch the new school year.
The education team wants to give a big THANK YOU to all of generous donors to our website giving campaign that makes these scholarships possible. We wish all students a successful and rewarding 2012-2013 school year!