Providing a second chance to adolescent girls and reinventing education in Madagascar
In a country where only one adolescent girl out of four finishes middle school, Jocelyne and other young girls express their desire to learn and continue their studies, despite the harsh realities of life.
The holidays are over! Jocelyne, 15, can't wait to start her last year of middle school at the general education middle school of Antanambao Andranolava in north-west Madagascar. Last year, Jocelyne almost had to stop her studies because her parents could no longer afford to pay her school fees. "I am relieved that my grandmother offered to pay for my studies. I am going to do everything I can to get my diploma and go on to high school next year", she confides. In her region, only one girl in five finishes middle school.
Jocelyne is the only girl among her four siblings. That morning, she hurried to join other pupils gathered by the school director in the school's largest classroom. The distribution of school supplies provided by UNICEF is starting. This action is part of the Back to School and Learning programme, which aims to help out-of-school children return to school and remain in it.
"I received a bag, five exercise books, two pens, a pencil, a square and a compass. Of course, these supplies won't cover all my needs until the end of the school year, but they do cover a large part of my study costs," says Jocelyne.
Teachers also receive educational materials. "We got self-study books for all subjects. These tools and the trainings that go with them are necessary because several teachers are not sufficiently qualified", explains Rabearivola Cécillien, the school's director. Nearly 290,000 pupils and 8,000 teachers in primary and secondary schools in eight regions have received these kits.
A second chance for all adolescent girls
Besides offering trainings for teachers, distributing school supplies and building classrooms, digital education is also being promoted among these young people. Some schools which have computer rooms are equipped with an internet connection. Rouweidah (14), who is passionate about biology, can attest to the usefulness of these online learning tools. "The games on the platform help me understand the lessons easily," she says, while keeping her focus on the computer. UNICEF also supports other activities to encourage the empowerment of adolescents, particularly girls.
Madagascar is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to climate-related hazards. Educating young people to take care of their environment instils a sense of responsibility. At the Antanimora middle school, a few kilometres from Jocelyne's school, girls and boys are working hard to water the tree seeds planted in the greenhouse. As part of this programme, every pupil at the school is encouraged to plant a tree. "This is our contribution to leave a liveable environment for the next generation. Planting trees is also fun for us," explains Sarobidy, one of the pupils present that day.
The Let Us Learn programme supports all these activities in middle schools. This programme also provides vocational training tailored for adolescents. In the Analanjirofo region in the north-east of the island, Oxynah is one of a hundred young people benefiting from this programme. Having left school at the age of 15, she is now training to become a seamstress, and hopes to make a career out of it in the future.
Jocelyne, Rouweidah, Sarobidy and Oxinah hope to fulfil their dreams one day. Education is an essential means of empowering girls and remains an important vector for change to ensure a better future.