At a school in Madagascar, new classrooms provide new optimism for the future

At a school in Madagascar, new classrooms provide new optimism for the future

Fanja Saholiarisoa
Sarisambo mixed classroom
UNICEF/2019/ Rakotomandimby Maholiniaina
13 October 2020

Prior to 2018, students and teachers at Sarisambo Lower Secondary School in the Androy region of Madagascar (South of Madagascar) had to have their classes in a vacant room in the town hall, because they had no school of their own. The commune wanted to support the education of its adolescents but classes in the town hall were interrupted weekly by the community meetings, an environment not at all conducive to the learning and well-being of students or the confidence of parents to continue to invest in formal schooling for their children.
Many local families had already decided to send their children to study in the surrounding communes of Beraketa or Bekily.

Students and teachers were discouraged.  "I remember how difficult it was for the students to concentrate with all of the comings and goings of people at the town hall," explains Mr. Maureen, a teacher at CEG Sarisambo.

According to him, the school used to have 43 students prior to the construction of the new classrooms. A very low number compared to the number of children normally enrolled in the rural communes with similar sized populations. In addition, the learning outcomes for children were low, as the school had high rates of absenteeism and drop-outs.

The year 2018 was seen as a rebirth of sorts for the Sarisambo Lower Secondary School, according to school staff and parents. With the support of UNICEF, the school received its first new classrooms and boys’ and girls’ toilets. "This was a real improvement for the teachers, parents and students,” said Mr. Maureen. “As a result, the enrolment rate has increased over the last three years."

The school now has more than 160 students enrolled in all four grades – from grade six to nine. More importantly, 22 of the 25 students enrolled passed their national exams in 2019 and hope to go on to high school – a first for Sarisambo.

But the needs remain enormous. For the moment, it is difficult to manage the courses of the 160 pupils with just the two classrooms. "We had to put a plastic sheet to separate each grade. However, it is a challenge for both teachers to hear the students and be heard,” says Maureen.

Maureen, a teacher in Sarisambo school

 

The teachers, students and school officials are delighted that UNICEF with support from its donors like the Japanese national committee of UNICEF will be building two additional classrooms and an additional set of toilets for girls and boys. “We are looking forward to even more learning success for these kids! They’ve waited so long to have a real space for learning,” said Mr. Maureen. 

UNICEF Madagascar, through its Let Us Learn Programme (LUL),  is supporting the Ministry of National Education, Technical and Professional Training (MNETPT) which shares a common vision that investing in lower secondary school education is an entry point to addressing barriers to equity for girls and boys and a means to improving the overall social sector performance of the country.

The LUL strategy has been contributing to the larger UNICEF country programme since 2012, creating opportunities for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and excluded girls and boys to realize their rights to an education in a secure and protective environment.