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More than one million children get “school kits” in Madagascar

UNICEF commends government efforts

ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR, 7 September 2004 – Amidst much fan fare, smiles and camera flashes, first-time school goers in the nation’s capital received their own "school kit" at a ceremony attended by numerous officials from the Ministry of Education as well as UNICEF’s Chief of Education.

“Can you believe that my school kit contains 12 colored pencils!” said Nosy, a delighted seven year old girl. “My sister never had a “kit” when she went to school nine years ago and the only thing my parents could afford to buy for her was one pencil,” she added.

Fortunately for Nosy and 1.23 million other children around the country, who will also receive school kits this week, much has changed where primary education is concerned.

“Today in Madagascar, there is a new spirit of hope – a spirit that prevails despite the devaluation of the nation’s currency, in spite the increase in the price of petrol and despite the higher cost of rice, a daily staple for the country’s 17 million people,” said UNICEF’s Chief of Education, Francisco Basili.

The country has made tremendous progress in increasing the number of children in school, from 65 percent in 1995 to 82 percent in 2003. In fact, the Ministry of Education, has been working hard over the past two years to revolutionize the entire schooling system in the country. Amongst the more famous reforms of the past year – the abolition of school fees, the introduction of a competency based learning approach (which focuses on what learners acquire rather than what teachers teach), the re-training of 6,000 plus school teachers in new teaching methods, the adoption of a staggered school calendar that is more attentive to the needs of the country’s rural population and the construction of 1600 new classrooms and the rehabilitation of 6286 others (destroyed by cyclone GAFILO earlier this year).

 “While challenges still remain in terms of the quality of education and the numbers of children out of school,” commented UNICEF’s Representative Barbara Bentein. “UNICEF believes that the government is on the right track. The distribution of these school kits is just one of the many positive steps already taken this year,” she added.

Each school kit contains a pencil case with three ballpoint pens, pencils, a sharpener and eraser, compass, a square and a metal box with 12 color pencils. UNICEF has also ordered 573,400 school books for middle and lower secondary school students which will be distributed around mid-October.

For more information, please contact:

Misbah M. Sheikh, Communication Officer, UNICEF Madagascar, Tel: +261 20 22 626 45/46, Mobile: + 261 33 11 892 83, msheikh@unicef.org




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