By Paul Antion, Education Coordinator, Andavadoaka/Velondriake, Madagascar
Youth in rural southwest Madagascar face numerous challenges growing up, but are relentless in their pursuit of education and dreams of bright futures. Blue Ventures currently supports more than 230 students in Velondriake through our school scholarships programme, but we have personal relationships with over 500 youth and their parents through extra-curricular activities, environmental and health education, youth clubs, and one-on-one mentoring. Here are some of photos and stories from my conversations with a few of these students about their daily lives.
Soanomeny is preparing for her university entrance exams and applying for a scholarship awarded to only three students in the region every year. She was the first person from the small village of Vatoavo to receive their middle school diploma, and now is the first person to receive their high school diploma. If she goes to university, she will be the first from Vatoavo to go to university. This will also be the first time she goes to Toliara, the nearest city, less than 200 kilometres away.
“My parents were happy when I received my middle school diploma, but unfortunately they couldn’t support me through high school. Blue Ventures was there to help. I have been in Andavadoaka for a week now trying to finish these applications and all I have left from my parents is 300 ariary for tea in the morning. So now Blue Ventures is helping me again, to go to Toliara tomorrow for a chance to receive a larger scholarship and go to university. I’ve never been to Toliara before. I don’t know anyone there. I’m a bit scared because I don’t know what to expect. After all of this is over I’m still not sure whether I’ll get the scholarship… I don’t know of anyone else who had dreams of going to university as a kid. It isn’t something that many people from here do. No matter what happens, I have to keep trying, I have to find a way so that eventually I can be the one to help more kids like me who didn’t have much chance to make it.”
Nomeny is in his second year at high school in the town of Morombe. Pictured right, he worked on and off with seaweed farmers in Ampasimara during his vacation to help his father who has been struggling with his crop yield in Befandefa. He was the first student from Befandefa middle school to go to high school. He had difficulties adjusting to the rigorous curriculum throughout his first year in 2013-2014, but improved vastly on his final exams to pass into the next grade. I asked him if getting used to life in Morombe made studying difficult, and he said that living conditions were fine and it wasn’t so bad being far away from home. I asked him what he thought made the difference to his last exams, and he disclosed humbly…
“Well, after the first month at school the people I was renting the house from just left and locked the door. So I’d been sleeping outside under a mosquito net all year. I was only really able to study when it was light outside. It was also getting pretty cold at night by the end of the year. In the three weeks before the final exams some of the members of Club Tsontso (a local youth club) noticed that I didn’t have a place to stay and one of them invited me to stay with them until exams were over. Without that extra time to study I wouldn’t have passed.”
This year there are five more students from Befandefa middle school who have started high school in Morombe after Nomeny set the precedent. Being part of Club Tsontso gives them a chance to share their problems and work with other students to overcome the challenges of studying far away from home.
Angeline is in the final class at the Sainte Famille middle school in Andavadoaka.
“I have eleven siblings, but only two of us are still in school. All of my older siblings left school to get married before finishing their middle school diploma. It’s especially difficult for young girls here, you have try so hard just to stay on the right path. The bars are going every night in town and even if you don’t want to go, all of your friends who are the same age but not in school will bring you along with them. But my older siblings already went through that and are now looking out for me, unlike a lot of other girls who come from outside of Andavadoaka and don’t have family here… Even still it’s difficult to find the time to study. For me, every morning when I wake up, I have to get the water from the well for cooking, for bathing, for washing. At midday and in the evening it’s the same thing. But on Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning, I get to participate in the girls’ club and in Connecting Classrooms. It’s an escape from the daily routine and finally gives me a chance to focus on learning with other students who are going through the same things. I didn’t get my BEPC (middle school diploma) last year but Blue Ventures has given me a second chance. Without this help I wouldn’t still be in school. When I pass the BEPC at the end of this year, I’ll be the first in my family to go to high school. That makes all of the hard work worth it.”
Find out more about our education and community engagement work here.
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