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Madagascar, 21 September 2017: Catch-up classes offer a second chance for education

Larissa, 16 years old (Marovoay, Boeny region)

Larissa is living in the village of Ambodiadabo, in the district of Marovoay. In July 2016, she completed the final grade of primary school and sat for national examinations. “I was so lucky I could return to school last year and finally obtain my end-of-primary certificate,” says Larissa. “It was hard work, but look at me, I am in junior secondary school now!” A dream came true for this young girl who had dropped out of primary school two years ago.

Larissa belongs to the first cohort of children who participated in catch-up classes in the region of Boeny. She attended a special session at the start of the academic year 2015-16 for about 6 weeks, in the public primary school of Amparihilava, about 5 km away from her home. Upon completion of the course, she joined the last grade of primary in the very same school.

Larissa is from a large family. When she finished Grade 4 in 2014, her parents could not afford to pay school fees and other school costs anymore, even for basic items such as pencils, chalk, and exercise books, and she could not continue her schooling as a result.

“We rely on the harvest and our fields were severely damaged in 2014 by heavy rainfalls and cyclones. We were short of money and really had no choice,” explains Jean Radaoro, Larissa's father.

He still remembers the day when he told Larissa that she could not continue going to primary school: “It was really painful, Larissa liked school so much.”

For most families in Madagascar, enrolling children in school is not easy; it is even harder for large families living in remote communities with more than five children under one roof. Often, families sacrifice their children's education because tuition fees are a big burden for them. As a result, many children are not enrolled in school, and a large proportion of those who go to school drop out before even completing a full cycle of primary education, without mastering basic competencies and essential skills, including literacy and numeracy.

The Ministry of National Education, in partnership with UNICEF-Madagascar, therefore introduced catch-up classes for out-of-school children in 2015. The initiative is now being implemented countrywide to help children like Larissa, who have dropped out of primary school, to reintegrate into primary school and complete at least a full cycle of primary education. The initiative has also been expanded to junior secondary schools in 2016 as a pilot, in order to support completion of a full basic education cycle.


Children participating in catch-up classes are usually aged between 7 and 16. Catch-up classes offer them an opportunity to upgrade their knowledge and skills, and provide an incentive to return to school – whenever possible, with children of the same age.

Larissa was identified by the headmaster of the primary school during one of his door-to-door visits to families and communities leaving in the locality. “I was lucky to be able to return to school, and I was given a school kit to start with,” says Larissa. She participated in catch-up classes together with 15 other children aiming to reintegrate into the last grade of primary, and she successfully completed her primary education cycle in 2016. Her parents hope to support her from now on to make sure she finishes her studies. “Her older siblings have already stopped. It would be great if Larissa could succeed where others have failed,” says Clarissa, Larissa's mother.

The public primary school of Amparihilava is one of the 208 schools which are now offering catch-up classes in the Boeny region. Kits have been provided to schools, teachers, and children to encourage them and support the initiative.

“This Programme has greatly increased enrollment in our school, from 270 students last year to 334 for this new academic year, and drop-out rates have reduced significantly. This was made possible because our school, children and parents receive support from UNICEF,” says the principal of Amparihilava primary school. The same positive results have been achieved in all schools that have implemented the catch-up classes initiative in 2015 and 2016 with UNICEF’s support.



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