Severe weather events increasingly disrupting children’s education in Madagascar.
Nearly 100,000 students could not attend school for several weeks after cyclone Freddy battered the southeast and southwest of Madagascar.
It’s back-to-school day at the secondary school of Antaninarenina, in the city of Tulear, in the southwest of Madagascar. Students start streaming towards the school as seven o’clock is about to strike. Classes have been suspended for the past three weeks for the 800 students at the school, following the landfall of cyclone Freddy in this region in March. Here, the secondary school and the high school share the same grounds. Two large tents provided by UNICEF have been set up as temporary classrooms. A few soldiers are still around and observe the return of the students from the shade of a tree, after having provided security for this location without interruption since the cyclone. In his office the director, Tsirengea Rajos Monista, cannot hide his fatigue after welcoming 900 evacuees at the school, which was used as a shelter site for two weeks.
“A school should not normally be used as a shelter, but we were in a critical situation, so we had to open our doors to them,” the director explains. “The students are always the first victims of natural disasters because, after such an event people gather at the school and stay for a while, which disrupts classes”.
In one of the two temporary classrooms, Razafindrazaka Miaso, a trainee teacher, has started the earth and life sciences class for seventh graders. “I was also affected by the cyclone, the roof of my house was damaged. Most of the students are still tired and this long pause has a negative impact on their concentration in class. Moreover, some of them don’t have school supplies anymore because everything was damaged by water," she confides.
Nearly 100,000 students could not attend school for several weeks after cyclone Freddy hit the southeast and southwest of Madagascar. The cyclone, which lasted more than a month, battered the Atsimo Andrefana region twice with increasingly devastating impact. People in the region say extreme weather events have become more common in recent years and point to the effects of climate change as a cause.
Reconstruction and catch-up programme
Two classrooms were damaged in this school. In addition to the two temporary tents, UNICEF provided tarpaulins to cover the damaged roofs, and school supplies and sports equipment for the students. "This pause has upset teachers and students, but we have to maintain a sense of normality no matter what by providing classes to catch up on the programme, especially for students taking exams this year," the director insists. The school obtained a score of 76% at the last session of the exam marking the end of secondary school. According to him, this good result is the fruit of long-term efforts based on discipline and strong motivation.
Thirteen-year-old Nady was also affected by the cyclone. "The water level rose very quickly in our neighborhood, and we were forced to move to my grandmother's house, which is on higher ground. I am happy to be back with my classmates, even though there is some catching up to do due to the long break," she confides.
UNICEF advocates for continuity in education, even in emergency situations, as soon as the security situation allows students to safely return to school. Pre-positioned stocks in these regions were immediately distributed after cyclone Freddy. During the 2023 emergencies, 34 metal tents and 1,500 tarpaulins were provided by UNICEF for temporary classrooms. Schools in the most affected areas were also provided with 308 batches of school kits (notebooks, pens, etc.) and 169 batches of recreational kits for children to play and learn games.