In Madagascar, the collective approach preserves the pleasure of learning
In the South, the five buildings of the Beraketa public primary school are not enough for the 659 children who come there every day. The support of active members of the school management committee makes education a lever for a better future
Beraketa is a rural town in the South of Madagascar. It takes an hour by car to get there on a long sandy road between the vast fields of sisal – tropical plant from which fibres are extracted to make carpets. With an arid climate all year round – reinforced by the unprecedented drought of 2021 – the lack of water and food is a major problem, forcing families to prioritize survival over other needs such as health, or even education. This year, 24 per cent of children in the Anosy region did not register for school, while in 2020, nearly 43 per cent dropped out of school to follow their parents towards more fruitful land or simply for lack of means.
At the Public Primary School of Beraketa, efforts are converging so that no break occurs during the 10 months of learning. Six hundred and fifty-nine children – preschool and primary combined – are welcomed there every day and are the main reasons for the relentlessness of Tenasoa Justine, the director.
To do this, Tenasoa Justine can count on the unfailing support of the members of the school management committee. It is a structure initiated by the Ministry of National Education and whose deployment is made with the support of partners such as UNICEF. With support from the Hempel Foundation in Denmark, parents, teachers, village leaders and local authorities involved in the committee have benefited from capacity building to make it a pillar of success for the public primary school.
Focus on transparency
The watchword of the management committee is transparency. Both in terms of financial management and logistics, it is rich in the expertise of its members for the benefit of children and families. A contractualised educational project meshes the activities from the start of the school year to define priority needs, direct expenditures and develop the implementation plan. Review meetings are held every quarter to assess actions and make decisions in full consultation. "The purchase of materials and equipment for teachers and the director such as chalk, paper, pens, preparation notebooks... is a priority to ensure the programme" explains the director. "We openly take part in decisions and know exactly how and to what types of actions the funds are allocated. We are motivated to send the children to school because we are sure that the courses will not be interrupted," says Marguerite Miambintsoa, treasurer of the management committee. Two of her eight children are respectively in preschool and kindergarten at the public primary school.
The conditions are currently precarious for her son in preschool, but Marguerite Miambintsoa remains hopeful thanks to the efficiency of the management committee. "We plan to build a room to take care for these toddlers. The means are currently insufficient but we are working on it," she continues. The school has benefited from the construction of two buildings with respectively three and two classrooms through the joint programme of UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the International Labour Organization, but this is not enough to accommodate all of the pupils. "We borrow a chalet to teach their courses. But at this stage, it is more important to educate them. Five more classrooms are needed to meet the current needs of the school," adds the director. The efforts of the director and her entire team have paid off because during the official 2022 exams, the results were around 80 per cent.
"Climate change, especially drought, is our main enemy. This is the main reason for the absence of the parents – members of the committee – who are too busy finding something to meet the family’s needs. For children, coming to school on an empty stomach is also a sad challenge," she laments. The chief of the Manjosoa Commune, an active partner of the committee, goes door-to-door to encourage parents, particularly in times of great famine. "The school benefits from a canteen which partially relieves the burden on parents and ensures that the children are present," he says.