Sarah and Stella, pursuing their dreams and education in rural Madagascar
Five years after our first meeting in the middle school, two young sisiters achieve another milestone on their education journey.
Winter is coming to an end in south-east Madagascar. In the village of Andranovolo, young people are enjoying the last of the holidays by watching the final game of the inter-village football tournament. In a fortnight, the new school year will begin for those continuing their studies. Stella, 18, has just passed this milestone! She obtained her baccalaureate and is preparing for the next stage of her adventure.
Stella and her sister Sarah, 21, are now young adults. "I would like to study law to become a judge and help bring safety to my community," explains Stella. "As for me, I would like to fulfil my dream of becoming a midwife, but for the time being I am taking French language classes with my older sister Sandra," says Sarah. When we first met them five years ago, they were still young middle schoolers.
Where many others have failed, Sarah, Stella and their older sister Sandra have succeeded. In this part of the island, only one girl in four manages to finish middle school. Thanks to the UNICEF-supported Let Us Learn programme, Sarah and Stella's family received a regular cash transfer during their years at school to help support them and encourage them to continue their studies. The two girls were also among the most active members of the students' club. This programme reinforced their knowledge of children's rights and contributed in part to their success.
"I am proud of the achievements of my three eldest daughters, because they are the first in the family to get their baccalaureate diploma. Even though I am a widow and a single mother, I have managed to look after my children on my own," says their mother.
The Let Us Learn programme is a retention and out-of-school prevention strategy that creates opportunities for vulnerable adolescents, particularly girls, to realise their right to education in a safe and protective environment. The programme focuses on three pillars of equity: reaching out-of-school children, expanding girls' education, and improving learning outcomes.
"All those years of study helped me to improve my skills and be more responsible. Today, I regularly help my mother weave hats for a living," says Stella. While their mother is away in another region attending an important family event, these young women live independently. Under the supervision of their grandparents, who live next door, they even look after their little sister Sonia, who is just 11 years old and has started year 6 at the village's state primary school.
"Education is important, especially for girls, because it will enable us to achieve our goals and realise our dreams. There is still a long way to go, but we have to fight together if we hope to have access to a better future. For now, we are enjoying our youth with friends and family," concludes Sarah.
Note: the programme Let Us Learn was made possible thanks to financing from national UNICEF committees (Germany/Findel and U.S.A./Zonta international).