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Wednesday, 13th December 2023

Perseverance: Mosa’s Story of Education in Rural Madagascar

By Daniel Hanberry

“The only way to escape poverty is through education.”

With the 5th highest number of unschooled children in the world, Madagascar’s education system lacks the resources required to meet the needs of its young population.1 Countrywide, 58% of 15-24 year olds have not completed primary school, and 15% of youth have no formal education.2 These staggering numbers are due to various inhibiting factors such as cost, the distance one must travel to get to school, students staying home to work or look after their siblings, and a lack of teachers due to poor (or non-existent) pay.3 Additional factors such as a severe lack of classroom space and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities contribute further to low enrolment and retention rates.

With nearly 20 years of experience, the Sekoly Programme at SEED Madagascar aims to provide the infrastructure necessary for students to obtain a quality education in a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment. Since 2005, Sekoly has constructed, repaired, and furnished over 40 school buildings totalling more than 90 classrooms. To improve the quality of WASH in schools, 100 latrine cubicles have been constructed and repaired, and access to clean water has been provided for 23 schools across the Anosy region of southeast Madagascar through the Programme. With exacerbating factors such as climate change and limited government funding, SEED is working hard to ensure that students in Anosy are given the opportunity to receive a quality education. 

Members of the Sekoly team recently sat down with Mosa, who is the younger brother of one of SEED’s construction staff, Jean Noel. Mosa completed both his primary and lower secondary education at schools built by SEED, and attended upper secondary school at a site where SEED is planning to conduct construction and repairs in 2024.

Mosa’s story exemplifies overcoming adversity in the face of hardships, all in the pursuit of receiving an education in rural Madagascar. Mosa explained to us how family and determination can enable one to make their dreams a reality. 

What schools have you attended prior to university?

I first went to Beandry Primary School in 2010. After three years, I took my final exams a year early, and started at Mahatalaky Lower Secondary School in 2014. I passed those final exams in 2018, and attended Mahatalaky Upper Secondary School in 2019, achieving my BACC (qualifying high school degree) in 2021.

Beandry EPP
Beandry Primary School (built in 2008) today, set to receive repairs and new construction in the new year.

The original school building at Beandry Primary School was first constructed out of wood in 2008 by SEED, with current plans to return in 2024 and repair the existing infrastructure as well as build a new three-classroom school building with WASH facilities. From 2011 to 2012, SEED built four new school buildings as well as WASH infrastructure for Mahatalaky Lower Secondary School, and then returned in 2021 to construct further WASH facilities to accommodate its growing population. Finally, SEED is also planning construction and repairs to the WASH and education infrastructure at Mahatalaky Upper Secondary School in 2024.

After receiving his high school diploma, Mosa took a year off from school to save money to further his studies. Mosa is now in his first year at Tulear University, where he is studying history and geography and hopes to earn his master’s degree in five-years’ time.

What are your career goals?

I have always been good at history and geography, so I decided to pursue this. My ambition is to be a teacher and educate the younger generation. I am the first Beandry student to leave the village to pursue education, so I would like to go back and share this knowledge with my community. I have 10 siblings, six brothers and four sisters. I made a promise to my father that I would be successful in school. Ever since he passed away, I have been motivated to do well. My personal motto is ‘ny fianarana no vahaolana amin’ny fahantrana,’ meaning, ‘the only way to escape poverty is through education’.

Why is education important to you?

The reason why I focused on education and held onto this motto is because when we were younger, my family was wealthy for my village. This is why all my siblings were able to attend primary school. When I moved to Mahatalaky Lower Secondary School, this is when my father fell ill and became paralysed, he could no longer work and our mother had to support us all. From then on, I began thinking about whether I should drop out or not, but my mother encouraged me to keep going. We had to sell our belongings so I could continue school.

Mahatalaky CEG
A school building at Mahatalaky Lower Secondary School, built by SEED

My first semester at lower secondary school I did poorly because I wasn’t focused on school and was worrying about my future and my family’s wellbeing. When I went home to Beandry I would get sad thinking about my family’s life. In the second semester I was able to get back on track and focus better.

In 2018 my dad passed away, this affected me a lot, but I was able to keep my focus and motivation for education.

My older brother Jean Noel supported me after my dad passed. 2019 was my puberty age, so again my concentration suffered as I became lazy and just wanted to sleep. Jean Noel advised me that I should keep going and start working hard.

At this point I made a new motto for myself, ‘tsy afaka miaraka ny kamoana sy ny fianarana,’ meaning, ‘you cannot combine education and laziness’. This pushed me to work hard again just a year shy of the BACC exams (known to be notoriously difficult).

That year I had a very full schedule. I stayed after school to do night classes and group studying, and I would wake up early in the morning to go jogging, as the BACC also includes a physical education test. I was lucky to be in Mahatalaky for upper secondary school as I didn’t have to rent a house and stayed with family. But on the weekends, I would have to collect firewood for cooking for the week.

Mahatalaky Lycee
The building currently being used by Mahatalaky Upper Secondary School, where SEED also plans to do new construction in 2024.

Now that Mosa is in Tulear, he is renting a house but has also applied for a university apartment and is waiting to hear back. Mosa told us there are also two other students from Beandry studying there. He has also met another student from Emagnevy, a nearby community in Anosy where SEED built a primary school in 2022. 

You grew up in Beandry, and attended the original SEED-built school. What makes you most excited about SEED constructing a new school building for the primary school there?

I would like to thank SEED, because without them building a school there, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have in my education. I will encourage my community to attend school.

We are very grateful that Mosa took the time to sit down with us and share his story. We would like to give a special thanks to our donors involved in the original and future construction of Beandry Primary School, as well as Mahatalaky Lower and Upper Secondary Schools, for their previous and ongoing support. 

References:

1. World Bank, (2018). Country Overview - Madagascar. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/madagascar/overview

2. Ibid.

3. UNICEF, (2018). Challenges and Opportunities for Children in Madagascar. https://www.unicef.org/madagascar/media/1246/file/Defis%20et%20opportunites%20des%20enfants%20%C3%A0%20Madagascar%20(EN).pdf