By Kame Westerman, Velondriake MPA Project Coordinator. In Velondriake, only 34% of children under the age of 16 currently attend school, and this is usually only primary school; very few remain for secondary education. Dropout rates are high primarily due to the inability of parents to fund school attendance. Quality education provides girls and boys access to economic alternatives to fishing and the opportunity to increase their future job prospects. In addition, research has shown that providing education particularly to girls directly results in delaying first childbirth and having smaller, healthier families as adults. With this in mind, Blue Ventures instituted a scholarship program in Andavadoaka in 2006.
Educational facilities in Velondriake are very poor. There are two schools in Andavadoaka – the public primary school, which is free but has relatively poor teaching ability; and the private catholic school, which costs money, but has better teachers. There is no public secondary school, so students are forced to attend the private school if they wish to continue their education.
Each year, Blue Ventures awards scholarships to over 100 bright students within Velondriake who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the fees to attend the private school. Largely funded by past volunteers, this program provides the cost for entrance, monthly fees, and school supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils, and rulers. In addition, the program provides a food and housing stipend for students coming from outside of Andavadoaka.
This week, as the new school year begins, scholarship recipients and their parents attended a meeting where they received their school supplies. At the same time, parents signed contracts stating that they will supervise their children’s studies and ensure that the student attends class regularly.
If you would like to donate to the scholarship program, please visit http://blueventures.org/community/sponsor-schoolchild.html