Olivia’s second chance at learning
Teacher training, learning materials and catchup classes for primary school dropouts in Analanjirofo
Olivia Ramanantena is 12 years old. She was one of Amparatanana’s primary school’s best students before she had to drop out of school two years ago. “I was so sad to leave my school and my schoolmates. I cried for weeks afterwards,” she said. Olivia lives with her parents and her two younger sisters in a hut made of palm leaves and bamboo on the outskirts of Fenerive Est in the Analanjirofo region of Madagascar. The village of Betampona, where they live, is a 20 minute walk each way to and from school. The village is humid and green, like the rest of the region, it is also extremely vulnerable to cyclones, which makes it a perfect environment for mosquitoes and other water borne illnesses.
Olivia’s parents decided to stop sending her to school in 2016, because they could not afford her school fees as well as the medical treatment of her two younger sisters, who suffer from recurrent fever. In fact, many pupils at Amparatanana’s primary school have similar stories. They come from poor families, whose lives depend on traditional fishing and farming rice, fruit and spices. Whenever the weather is bad, or when the family incomes from fishing or farming decline, they rely on children to help them with the additional work in the field. In some cases, this lasts weeks. In the worst cases, students abandon their schooling entirely.
Mrs. Angele Razokiny, Olivia’s teacher, volunteered to be part of the catch-up classes at Amparatanana, because she personally understands the situation of dropout children. She herself had to struggle hard to complete her primary and secondary education because of her physical disability. Mrs. Rozokiny participated in a training for catch-up class teachers with support from UNICEF in partnership with the national Ministry of Education in 2017. During the training, she strengthened her skills in identifying the needs of students who have been out of school, motivating them and accelerating the essential learning they will need to be successful in their classes and stay in school.
Mrs. Razokiny especially appreciated the way the workshops focused on teaching practices and professional exchanges among teachers, regional experts, and parents on the diverse ways to renew motivation and interest in education in these vulnerable children. In group discussions, she explained how helping dropout children helped her own self-esteem and motivated her to learn new skills and better understand each child’s unique situation. “The new skills I learned and the new role I have give me a feeling of being useful in a way that I never felt before” she said.
It was with this new confidence and sense of purpose that she went to Olivia’s house to convince her parents to allow Olivia to participate in catch-up classes during the school holidays in 2018. She convinced Olivia and her parents about the importance of attending class for the full development of the child as well as for a more secure future for the entire family. “The teacher’s visit made us more confident about keeping all our children in school. We will be sure to discuss with the school if we again face challenges like we did two years ago,” they confirmed.
UNICEF Madagascar, with contributions from the Government of Norway and other partners, is supporting the National Ministry of Education to provide catch up classes and re-enroll nearly 139,000 students in seven regions across Madagascar, including students like Olivia in Analanjirofo.