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.

Stephanie and her family moved to Andavadoaka just over a year ago. From the very start she jumped right into all of the activities we had to offer. Her parents have been back in Toliara since January for medical reasons, so she’s been challenged with taking care of her brother here while still trying to find time to participate in extra-curricular activities and excel in her studies.

“Right now I feel less like an older sister than I do a mother. My brother is still too young and small to do much of the work around the house. So it’s me who cooks everything, washes his clothes, gets the water, goes to the market. But I’ve grown a lot over the last year and developed leadership skills that are helping me to do everything I need to do to take care of my brother, and I still have time to study and carry out my responsibilities in the girls’ club and Connecting Classrooms. I don’t know what I want to do when I finish school so for now I figure I have to just try everything. And I like almost everything I try. When I first got here the girls’ club had some sessions on leadership and how to achieve our goals. So I figured I’d put that into practice and get involved in whatever I could.

I’ve been lucky as well. One day I was just sitting in the education centre after school and someone handed me a script to participate in the radio theatre show. So now it’s been almost a year that I’ve been involved in the radio. A lot has changed, now there are no scripts but Mahasoa (BV’s health education specialist) gives us a theme and some ideas, and we improvise based on what we see in our daily lives. It gives us a chance to really think about our actions and their consequences. In a little over a year and a half I’ll be leaving here for high school in Toliara or Morombe. I’ve gained so much here in the past year and I’ll be able to carry it with me wherever I go. But it’s sad at the same time, because where else do you get a chance to participate in radio shows or have a leadership role in multiple clubs? The best thing here is that there’s no need to be shy or worry about making mistakes because everyone makes mistakes, and at the same time everyone is learning.

GHC060935141109Hasamina (far right) is in her second to final year at the Sainte Famille middle school in Andavadoaka. Living away from her parents, she said that getting through school would be much more difficult if she didn’t have all of her sisters and cousins here studying with her. The support they give each other keeps them on the right path towards finishing their studies.

“Whenever I go back to Nosy Ve for vacation I do what I can to help my parents, whether it’s around the house or going out octopus gleaning. But I can see life is getting harder and harder to make it as just an octopus gleaner or a fisherman. There are more people doing it but there are fewer fish out there. To be comfortable you need to find a job with a monthly salary, and the only way you are going to do that is through finishing school. Our parents work so hard so that we can have an easier life. To me the most important thing about finishing school is to be able to give back to my family and all of those who’ve helped me so far.

GHC181004141108Spencer is in his first year at the Sainte Famille middle school in Andavadoaka, and one of twenty students selected for a French theatre club. He’s also a very active member of the Connecting Classrooms youth club and was one of the top students in Saturday School last year.

“For almost 6 years now it’s been just me and my mother here in Andavadoaka. One of my cousins goes to school here and lives with us now. I’m not quite sure where my older brother is. Maybe fishing somewhere in Morondava or the islands near Maintirano. She couldn’t support him in school being on her own, but I think she wanted to. I see that me being in school makes her proud.

There are a lot of kids my age who just go around the village looking for something to do, whether it’s fetching water from the well for someone or carry things from place to place. They are working hard with little to show for it. Similarly some kids go to school and have nothing to show for it. But as BV scholars we are learning more than just what’s taught in class. In Saturday School last year we learned all about how to protect the environment and our health. And now in Connecting Classrooms we’re going out into the community, doing surveys, creating films, gathering interviews, setting goals for ourselves. I feel like I’m gaining skills that will help me to accomplish my goals and hopefully continue to make my mother proud as well.

Find out more about our education and community engagement work here.

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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