Madagascar, 17 December: Contracts for School Success initiative

© UNICEF Madagascar/2010/Corbett
Children in the fifth grade at the Moramanga Ambony public primary school in Madagascar.

MORAMANGA, Madagascar, 17 December 2010 - If eleven-year old Nani Rakotoharisoa could do something to improve his school he would build a sports field. His classmate Andry, would like the dilapidated classrooms to be fixed. Both boys are students at the Moramanga Ambony public primary school and their dreams of a better place to study are not without hope.

This is because at Moramanga Ambony, parents, teachers, school administrators, local community members and students have signed a contract designed to involve the whole community in improving the quality of their children’s education. The construction of a new library has already begun.

“The Contracts for School Success initiative is a motivating force for us – before we had no plans to build the library,” says school director, Zara Ravoniarivololona. “Now it has been the parents that have given all the funds that have made this project possible. Even the poorest parents have contributed.”

Yet despite the community’s mobilization, huge obstacles remain for many of Moramanga Ambony’s 850 students. “In general it is the poverty of the parents that is the biggest challenge we face. We have children who arrive in school hungry – they cannot concentrate on their lessons and are often among the children who have to repeat grades. Other children don’t come at all,” explains Ravoniarivololona. “Between December and March, in the lean season when food is often scarce, the number of children absent rises.”

Across Madagascar, only around 60 percent of children complete their primary school education and repetition rates are high. Most children study in rundown and overcrowded classrooms with few learning materials. More than half of public primary school teachers are recruited by parents’ associations and have limited or no training. Many communities have no schools at all, and 15 percent of children begin their education in schools that do not offer the complete primary cycle.

© UNICEF Madagascar/2010/Corbett
Two new classrooms under construction at the Ambahibe public primary school in Madagascar.

A  few kilometres away from Moramanga Ambony at the Ambahibe  public primary school, the construction of two new classrooms is underway – the result of another contract drawn up by the school and the local community. “Our biggest challenge is to increase the success rate of students at the school, but our biggest problem is the lack of classrooms,” says school director, Eugene Rabearivelo.

The number of children enrolled at the Ambahibe primary school has risen by 100 this year and is expected to keep growing.

“Every year the number of students in schools in this area rises, but we do not have enough classrooms. Even though the parents are contributing, there is still not enough money to build the classrooms and fund other projects. For that we need to find other partners,” says Charles Andriatovolinere, head of the local education authority.  “If we don’t raise the number of classrooms, we cannot achieve the goals of Education for All. For every 50 students we need a new classroom – it is not easy.”

To help communities in and around Moramanga continue work to improve their children’s education, UNICEF is working with private sector partner, mining company Ambatovy to support schools engaged in the initiative, helping them reach ‘child-friendly’ standards where the educational environment is safe, healthy and protective, and schools are endowed with trained teachers and adequate resources. Such improvements will encourage children to stay in school longer, and help Madagascar to reach its Education for All targets, including universal access to primary school education.

“Our vision for the future is to have a fully equipped school with latrines, a sports ground and enough classrooms for the children,” says head of the Ambahibe school development association, Celine Rasoarimanana. Today, through the UNICEF-supported Contracts for School Success initiative, this vision could become a reality.

 

 

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