Only 1 in 3 children in the Velondriake area of southwest Madagascar go to school. Most do not make it beyond primary level and girls drop out far more often than boys. We provide young people with access to the educational opportunities they need to realise their full potential and advance marine conservation within their communities.
This year we are sending more than 200 children to school thanks to the generous donations and fundraising efforts of our supporters.
Scholars are selected on the basis of financial need and academic achievement. These students could not afford to go to school without your support. We provide them with stationery and textbooks. We also run a variety of extra-curricular activities with local teachers to ensure that they receive the most robust package of support and highest quality of education possible.
Madagascar school scholars supported in 2014-2015
is enough to send a child to school for a year
Our work with youth clubs and middle school students is supporting young people in our partner communities to develop critical thinking and leadership skills.
Ten youth clubs in the Velondriake area are currently working to facilitate discussion and take action in response to environmental and health issues. In the central village of Andavadoaka, students from the “Connecting Classrooms” club (originally started in partnership with UNICEF) are organising monthly talent shows for all community members to share poems and songs relating to environmental topics, while members of “Club Tsontso” are participating in Velondriake management association meetings with their elders.
We have also trained a small group of young people in Velondriake to act as citizen journalists, forming a “Junior Reporters’ Club”. Equipped with dictaphones and flipcams, these junior reporters share important conservation and health messages with their peers through our radio shows and community film screenings.
In the Belo sur Mer area, we are working with teachers at the local middle school in order to run weekly sessions exploring sexual health topics, using interactive theatre to enable students to start reshaping social norms in ways that enhance their health.
Every quarter, our team travels to 30 villages in the Velondriake and Belo sur Mer areas in order to facilitate discussions about environmental and health issues among children, youth and adults. This educational roadshow is a key component of our holistic Population-Health-Environment (PHE) approach.
We use music, drama, films and games to engage communities in various topics. Exploring the connections between different themes enables us to reach broader audiences, for example, talking with men about family planning and involving women in coastal resource management.
Due to the limited telephone network coverage in many parts of Velondriake, radio is a highly effective means of communicating with remote communities.
Our weekly radio programme, called Feom’Bezo, which means “Voice of the Vezo” in Malagasy, features news and interviews from around the Velondriake area. It has regularly aired 15-minute broadcasts since its inception in October 2011, and acts as an outlet for sharing local musical talent with a wide audience, spreading important environmental and health messages through memorable songs.
Since March 2014, we have been developing our radio work with the Safidy community health team, local youth and other community members by producing a new weekly series of emissions, focusing on behaviour change role plays and educational theatre sketches. These feature questions that can be used as starting points for discussions by listening groups throughout Velondriake.
Every Saturday morning, children in the village of Andavadoaka gather at our dedicated education centre to take part in “Saturday School”: integrated conservation and health education that is hands-on, creative and fun!
We work with local teachers and Velondriake committee members to plan and deliver the Saturday School sessions, which are open to both in-school and out-of-school children. Activities focus on group work to allow children to become comfortable discussing their own ideas in a supportive environment, challenging both students and teachers to work together in order to solve problems and find connections across subjects.
Youth-led beach clean-ups and field trips to local sites of ecological importance such as mangroves or baobab forests encourage children to continue learning and exploring outside of the classroom. We’re currently supporting local teachers from our partner school in Andavadoaka to develop a series of Saturday School session plans that can be used by their colleagues across Velondriake and other locally managed marine areas.
Each year we award several scholarships for Velondriake community members and university students from the western Indian Ocean region to undertake a six-week training course in marine science and conservation research alongside our international expedition volunteers.
The programme focuses on learning how to scuba dive, conducting ecological surveys and identifying fish and coral species. More than thirty local community members and Malagasy students have joined our scholarship programme to date, and these scholarships remain part of our expedition programme offering scholars and volunteers the opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas as well as work together on challenging marine conservation expeditions. Our scholars have gone on to assist with a variety of community conservation initiatives in Velondriake and beyond.