It’s a full day’s walk to reach the peaceful village of Ambalatenina, located in a remote area of eastern Madagascar. Surrounded by mountains covered with lush bamboo and palm trees, Ambalatenina is connected to the nearest town by little more than a dusty path. The village’s 450 or so inhabitants subsist on rice farming or labouring in the nearby gold mines. They live in huts made of palm leaves and bamboo.
Officially, 113 students aged 6 to 13 are enrolled at Ambalatenina’s primary school, which is also built from materials sourced from the forest. In reality, far fewer attend. In this poor, rural area, families rely on every member to contribute, and children can often be found in the fields or the mines. The school is not only short of students; it struggles to source supplies and appropriately trained staff.
Melene is 11 years old and lives in Ambalatenina.
“Last year, I had to sit with many others on the ground because there were not enough chairs and tables in our classroom,” she says. “It made me so tired. I had back pain every time I went to school.”
Addressing the gaps
Benedicte Rasoa, 23, is Melene’s teacher. After graduating from secondary school in 2016, Benedicte began working at the primary school. Her degree makes her the most-qualified of the three teachers. Within a year, she was promoted to head of school.
Though she loves her job and the children, running a school was more than the young woman had expected. “I am not experienced and skilled enough yet,” she says. “I don’t know how to ensure the students learn in a safe and high-quality environment.”
Shortly after taking on the new role, Benedicte enrolled in a UNICEF Data Must Speak training course. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Child-Friendly School approach, Data Must Speak focuses on data generation to foster change in schools like Melene and Benedictine’s.
It emphasizes local initiatives for school development, community involvement in school management and child rights-based data collection and analysis. UNICEF has implemented the programme in five regions of Madagascar, covering 5,778 school principals, with trainings in two additional regions scheduled for January 2019. The goal of the trainings is to bolster regional authorities’ allocation of resources to schools and empower communities to have a say in the quality of their children’s education.
"Last year, I had to sit with many others on the ground because there were not enough chairs and tables in our classroom." Melene, 11
Student Melene Miasa sits in her grade 5 classroom at the Maromitety public primary school in Madagascar. Last year she had to sit on the floor because their school did not have enough chairs. (© UNICEF Madagascar/Ralaivao)
Building strength from weakness
A teacher shows a student the indicators used in the school profile data dashboard. (© UNICEF Madagascar/Ralaivao)
- Photos: UNICEF Madagascar/Ralaivao
- Text: Darafify Ralaivao
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