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UNICEF provides out of school youth with new hope

ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR, 12 August 2004 -  At a “graduation” ceremony for 258 out-of-school youth, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education praised the joint initiative that has helped over 400 young people, over the course of the past year; attain both basic education and vocational skills.

“I was so glad the day my mother saw the poster advertising this project, “said William, age 16, who lives in the nation’s capital. “I dropped out of school in the third grade because my father did not have a job and my family was too poor to send me to school. But due to this initiative, I can make receipts and even bake cakes!”

William is just one of the many young people; aged 12-18, who is part of this initiative to deal with the country’s estimated one million out-of-school adolescents.

 “While it is true that in the big scheme of things, this is a small step, it is nevertheless, an important one,” affirmed UNICEF’s Chief of Education, Mr. Francisco Basili. “Every child has a right to an education and it is important that we find these school dropouts understand better why they are not in school and identify local and national resources to comprehensively integrate them back into society.”

The DESCOL initiative, as it is known, operates in 17 districts of the Antananarivo region. With the help of UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, each district identifies local artists who take in the young people as apprentices and provide them with future income generating skills in areas such as baking, mechanics, tailoring, etc. The initiative, which runs for nine months for each group of young people, includes three months of basic education training – i.e. young people learn basic numeric, Malagasy, French and civic education (including HIV/AIDS prevention and health issues) –  followed by a six month vocational training course.

“Before taking part in the project, I didn't know what my future would be like, “said Narindra, another DESCOL graduate. “Now, I want to open a restaurant with other graduates. We still do not have enough money, but we are full of hope."

UNICEF expects that the lessons learned from the DESCOL initiative will help inform national policy on out-of-school youth. While Madagascar has made steady progress in the educational area (net enrolment rates increased from 65% in 1995 to 82% in 2003), one in every five children still does not go to school.

In addition, out of a 100 pupils, only 39 complete primary school. Dropping out of school is particularly common for poorer students. Data from the Ministry of Education indicates that only 12% of children in rural areas complete the primary cycle as compared to 60% in urban areas.

In 2002, Madagascar’s government, with the assistance of UNICEF, set about reforming the educational system, both in terms of quality and access – a key element of this reform process was also to ensure the right to education for out-of-school youth. This is in part what gave birth to the DESCOL project.


For more information, please contact:

Misbah M. Sheikh
UNICEF Madagascar
Tel: +261 20 22 626 45/46
Mobile: + 261 33 11 892 83




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