By Paul Antion, Velondriake Education Coordinator, Madagascar   

Our education team has been busy facilitating an expanded range of extracurricular activities during the long summer break in Velondriake, as this is a vital time to continue engaging our scholars in structured educational activities. This period has also given the region’s high school students a chance to develop their critical thinking and leadership skills, with a number of exciting new initiatives being launched over the past months. 

Connecting Classrooms

Ten new computers arrived in Andavadoaka for our Connecting Classrooms initiative in June, providing many children with their very first opportunity to use a computer. Over the course of the summer, students learned how to type, started expressing their opinions through word documents, and created powerpoint presentations to share their ideas about local issues with each other. Subjects included the ecological and economic importance of temporary octopus reserves, Vezo cultural identity, and what they learned on their field trip to a local archaeological site.

Connecting Classrooms visit to a local archaeological site

Connecting Classrooms visit to a local archaeological site

Saturday School

Our Saturday School programme has also continued during the summer, using interactive methods to explore integrated environmental and social topics such as the benefits of mangrove ecosystems and the importance of clean water for community health. As the octopus reserve openings in Velondriake took place in August, we also focused a few of our sessions on the scientific aspects of this sustainable management tool.

Octopus reserve opening in Velondriake

Octopus reserve opening in Velondriake

Club Tsontso

The creation of two new youth clubs in Andavadoaka over the summer has sparked a resurgence in youth-led initiatives. Established by a number of our high school scholars, Club Tsontso is open to both in-school and out-of-school youth, with the aim of providing equal opportunities for environmental education, as well as a platform for youth to share their ideas and take action towards alleviating what they see as major problems facing their community. Tsontso is a type of fish that lives among different species of coral, working in large numbers to keep them clean and healthy. The young people chose this name for their club as a representation of what they hope to accomplish as a group coming together from different backgrounds to improve things in their community.

Though still relatively new, the club has already sprung into action, finalising a list of objectives and goals, quickly implementing their activities and establishing a strong presence within the village. The first few meetings drew an average of around 60 participants, and 8 club members (four boys and four girls) attended the Velondriake Committee meeting in August in order to contribute to discussions about their locally managed marine area.

A week after forming, Club Tsontso members gathered to clean five wells and the main road into Andavadoaka, addressing their concerns to vendors who often leave behind rubbish or food waste. As a means of sharing their voice, the club organised a film night in the village to discuss their goals and raise awareness about the issues that they consider to be facing their community. After presentations from a village elder and the club’s president, they screened the BBC Madagascar documentary (translated into Malagasy) for villagers of all ages to see for the first time the vastly different ecosystems and species found in their own country.

Young Women’s Club

Supported by Viviane, Blue Ventures’ scholarships coordinator, the young women’s club which is known as FTMA (Fikambanana Tanora Mamiritra Andavadoaka – The Shining Youth Club of Andavadoaka), has been meeting every Monday and Thursday during the school break with an average of 20 girls attending each session, ranging from 11 to 17 years of age. Previous youth clubs and our Connecting Classrooms initiative have been rather male-dominated and, while we aim to address this issue by targeting more females for extracurricular activities at start of the next school year, this club offers girls a chance to explore environmental, social, cultural and health topics in a safe learning environment in which they can share their ideas and create dialogue as young women. By voicing their opinions in front of familiar peers, they are able to build up the confidence to speak their minds in more general settings, such as Club Tsontso, as equals to their male counterparts.

Girl sharing her opinion at an FTMA club meeting

A girl shares her opinion at one of the FTMA club meetings

Female members of the Safidy team have run a couple of workshops with FTMA club members, giving these young women their first opportunity to talk openly and ask health professionals about sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted infections. These issues affect girls in Andavadoaka from a very young age, leading to early pregnancy and school drop out, but are rarely discussed.

Julienne, a middle school scholar and member of the young women’s club, explained the value of these extracurricular activities: “The FTMA is so important for us to continue to learn and focus on our studies outside of school. As a scholar, I want to study hard in order to some day have a job other than housework. In my opinion, this is the most important thing for young women in Andavadoaka, to be more than just young mothers. The scholarships programme and activities such as FTMA are allowing me to continue my studies and reach my goals. This year is especially important for me as I will be taking my exams in order to pass into high school.”

You can donate to Blue Ventures’ school scholarships programme via Virgin Money Giving – just £50 is enough to send a young person in Velondriake to high school for a year.

Posted by Paul Antion

Madagascar and Blue Ventures have been Paul's home since 2013. He's had the opportunity to work across projects and in many capacities. He's currently acting site leader in the southwest Madagascar, but continues to work on community outreach communications projects with the tremendously skilled, homegrown community outreach team.

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