Over the past decade Madagascar has shown some important steps towards reaching its goal of primary education for all by 2015 - but challenges remain.
Beneath rising primary school attendance figures lies an education system that still does not meet the needs of many school children in Madagascar. Out of 100 children who enter the first grade only about 60 complete their primary school education, and repetititon rates are high.
Improvements in pre-school and secondary education have not kept pace with progress in primary education. At the end of 2008, only 7 percent of pre-school aged children were enrolled in pre-schools.
The junior secondary school completion rate was only 25 percent, and gross enrolment was just 35 percent during the school year 2008-2009.
The average Malagasy adult has only completed 4.4 years of school. Although 49 percent of primary school children are girls, 78 percent of Madagascar’s school districts show girls’ enrolment lower than that of boys. The local realities for girls vary throughout the country – in some regions girls are much less likely to be enrolled in school and are less likely to complete the primary cycle than boys.
The situation is worse in lower secondary. In districts where the gender gap is greatest, there are barely 5 girls enrolled for every 10 boys. Considerable efforts are still needed to give girls the same opportunity for education as boys.
Most Malagasy children study in dilapidated and overcrowded classrooms with few learning materials. More than half of 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.
Despite the rapid increase in enrolment in the last decade, children are still turned away from schools for various reasons, among them over-crowded classes and a lack of money to pay teachers recruited by the community.
Annual cyclones and tropical storms damage school structures every year, and destroy the limited school materials that exist. Temporary classroom shelters are built as part of relief efforts, but funds for rebuilding are limited.
There is an accumulation of temporary classroom structures that are used permanently.Today, the impact of the 2009 political crisis is an additional major challenge to Madagascar’s education sector. Most households have experienced a loss in revenues, even as the price of basic foodstuffs has risen.
Poverty increases the likelihood of children not attending school – especially if they are needed to work to help supplement household income. Public budgets have also been cut, depleting much needed public funds for education.
Dorlys is 12 years old, and lives in a community without a school in Madagascar's Anosy region. Everyday she walks more than 4km to the Esalo primary school, in the village of Zafimahavory, where she studies. And in the evening, Dorlys walks home. She walks for more than two hours a day to get to school and back. Hear more from Dorlys here.
Back on Track is an innovative programme designed to support and further international development work on education in emergencies and post-crisis countries.