In coastal communities in the southwest of Madagascar only one in three children go to school, and most do not make it beyond primary level. Our education programme has been supporting young people in the Velondriake area for 10 years, and to mark this achievement we’re releasing a series of student profiles. Each profile will share the inspiring story of a student who has benefitted from the financial support of a Blue Ventures scholarship.
With a smile, Narison’s mother recounts her memories of ten years ago:
He’s gone fishing since his childhood; he would ask older men in the family to take him with them, they’d sell what they caught and then he’d take his portion of the money home for me to buy some food or to buy some school materials for him.
Narison’s father died when he was only twelve, leaving him, his six siblings and mother facing life alone and depending on what the sea gave them. In 2007, when Blue Ventures started supporting children from the Velondriake area to go to school, Narison was one of the first students to benefit from the programme.
Narison remembers those days well.
I worked hard because at that time we were really encouraged not to repeat a grade otherwise the support would stop. So, I studied very hard as I knew that my mother would never be able to pay for it if I was no longer in the programme.
Thanks to his hard work, and the Blue Ventures scholarship, Narison was able to go to the Morombe High School, about three hours car ride from his home village of Andavadoaka. During this time he had to live by himself, manage the small amount of money that was given to him, come back from school at noon to fetch water and cook by himself, and then go back to school again in the afternoon. This was quite demanding, as the distance between his school and his home was a 30 minute walk, and he had to do it four times a day! While other students would spend their weekends studying or taking additional courses in preparation for their BACC exams, Narison and his friend would have to go out fishing in order to make enough money to support themselves during the week, sometimes even having to miss their Friday classes.
Sometimes it was really hard because I had no money, nothing to eat for lunch, and then I had to go to school directly with nothing in my stomach. I am proud that I made it through all of that!
Narison has always been very self-motivated, and this has been recognised by his peers. In 2013, around 100 young people from Andavadoaka formed an association called Club Tsontso, a name which comes from the malagasy word for triggerfish as the youth association wanted to clean the village in the same way that triggerfish clean coral on a reef. Narison was elected as Club Tsontso president, in charge of leading the planning and implementation of their ideas and of presenting them to the Velondriake area committee.
You can support the education of a Velondriake child from £3 per month
In his final year of high school he was also elected as president of students, leading his peers in beach and village clean-ups, environmental film nights and general community outreach, as well as reporting on all student activities, issues, and finances for Blue Ventures.
When I talk with the younger generations of students, they are all inspired by what Narison and his peer group have achieved, and Club Tsontso continues to very active in engaging youth to protect their environment.
Due to lack of financial support, when I obtained my high school diploma I had to take a one year break. During that time, I used to go to the Blue Ventures Education Centre to help out with the activities there. I remember telling Paul [Blue Ventures’ Outreach Coordinator] that if I do not go to University, I don’t know why I worked so hard only to stop here! Of course, Paul put all his strength into encouraging and supporting me!
Even in this challenging time Narison was keeping himself busy. He taught maths and physics to middle schoolers trying to pass into high school, helped with the data entry for various Blue Ventures projects in need of a helping hand, and continued to go fishing as often as possible. Paul also invited Narison to participate in the marine science lessons with Blue Ventures’ expedition volunteers.
I learned about fish species with Sam and about corals with Abi, the field scientists at that time. At the end, I was asked to make a presentation in English in front of all of them… that was tough and challenging for me but in the end they told me “good work” which of course released all my tensions and encouraged me to continue. A year after that, I sat an exam in Toliara for biodiversity studies, and I was accepted into the university!
When I was still in Andavadoaka, I used to talk with volunteers from the Expedition team in order for me to improve my English. With one volunteer I talked about my life and the difficulties I’ve been through, and he generously offered to support me financially for my University studies in Toliara and I must say that thanks to this help, I could make it through to now.
Paul, who remains a mentor and friend of Narison, recently shared a memory with me:
Nary and I went snorkelling with some other high school graduates. Every time we’d come up from the water he’d shout out the Vezo and English names for all the fish that we’d see. He told me he could tell by the way they were swimming which species they were, but more impressive was that he knew all of the English names. Later that week we were talking outside his mother’s house and I caught a glimpse inside, the straw walls were completely covered in paper. Printouts of 100+ fish species that an expeditions volunteers had accidentally left behind. So to whoever left that behind, it’s gone to good use!
Narison is currently in his second year of studying Biodiversity at the University of Toliara. He is partially supported by a scholarship from Blue Ventures comprised of generous donations. Narison is keen on researching corals and marine issues, and increased support will help him finish his studies and specialise in Marine Science in the renowned Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines.
Going to university is the greatest dream of students in the Velondriake area, but it’s also one of the hardest to achieve. In the past few years only a very small number of students have been able to attend, but in 2016, thanks to donations to the Blue Ventures scholarships programme, 19 students received their high school diplomas and 7 of them were able to continue their studies at university. Unfortunately, we are currently only able to provide them limited support, which is not enough to cover all of the expenses of university where they are far away from their families and have to pay for food and rent.
Through your donations, we will be able to increase our support, helping the students with essential expenses and allowing them to continue their education.
With a donation of £20 per month or £250 per year, you can support a student at university for an entire year, allowing these students to realise their full potential and advance marine conservation within their communities.