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.

Sylvie is in her first year at high school in Morombe.

“Carrying out interviews in my community for the radio show has taught me how to really listen to people’s ideas and stories, and has made me more confident to share my own ideas… Working with BV staff to produce the radio shows, I’ve learned a lot about the impacts of my own decisions on daily life for myself and my family. What’s great about the show is that there’s something in it for everyone, from the father who’s trying to support his children to the young girl like me who’s trying to make it through school so that she can get a steady job and support a family of her own some day… It’s cool to listen the show on the radio and hear people talking about it, knowing that I’m a part of it.”

Sylvie has been voice-acting in our weekly community radio show alongside BV staff, community health workers and peer educators. Most recently she went on a village tour with the theatre team to perform in the southern communities of Velondriake. Sylvie is also an active member of the girls’ club in Andavadoaka.

“It’s easy to get into trouble if you don’t have anything to do outside of school. We started the girls’ club as a way of organising activities, as a place to meet and discuss issues, as well as helping each other make it through to the end of our schooling… There isn’t yet a girls’ club in Morombe (the town where the nearest high school to Velondriake is located) but a lot of the girls in school there have heard about the things we’ve done here. Life in Morombe is going to be difficult, on our own, away from family, so it’s important that we continue with the girls’ club to support each other.”

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During weekends and school holidays, Elodie goes out octopus gleaning to help her aunt Saina bring home enough money to provide food for the ten children in her care. Saina makes her living gleaning octopus too; currently she’s taking care of her own four children as well as six of her relatives’ children. Elodie is the second oldest and the only one they can afford to keep in school; she helps as a role model for her younger siblings.

“At the girls’ club we participated in cooking lessons, not only learning how to prepare nutritious food but also how to keep things clean while we cook. It’s something that people don’t pay much attention to here, but it’s so important for our health, the health of our families, and whoever eats what we cook… Everything that I learn, I try to pass on to my younger siblings because even though they’re not in school, they should understand these things that will help them to get through life.”

Soafiavy is in her first year at high school in Morombe.

“I’ve been studying away from my parents for some time now and it’s been difficult for them to support me from far away. Getting through school isn’t just about paying school fees, buying notebooks, having enough to eat, but you need the support of family and friends too.

I wouldn’t have made it through without the help of my extended family here. Even though my aunt is taking care of twelve of us, she’s there every day for me. When I’m sick, she’s there. When I’m doing well, she’s there. When I’m struggling in school, she’s there too.

It won’t be the same at high school in Morombe but I’m ready because my friends are like family as well. Especially the girls in the girls’ club. When I’m sick, they’re there. When I’m doing well, they’re there. When I’m struggling in school, they’re there. It feels good to know that.”

Olivia is in her second year at high school in Toliara.

“I’m lucky that my older cousin is a midwife. Just through talking to her I’ve learned a lot about sexual health and maternal health, which is important to know even at a young age here. My cousin is a role model for me, and I hope to be a role model for my friends and younger siblings as well.

My goal in completing school is to become a midwife. I see the need for women to have someone they can go to and trust with anything, especially young girls.”

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

Browse more stories here.

Blue Ventures

Posted by Blue Ventures

Blue Ventures is an award winning marine conservation charity. We rebuild tropical fisheries with coastal communities. On our Beyond Conservation blog you can hear voices from the front line of marine conservation written by our staff and volunteers.

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