Here comes the third day of the IWitness trip to Madagascar with UNICEF. Despite the spiders and insects in the room that scare me, we finally meet a famous black-and-white ruffed lemur at breakfast, and we come across a beautiful rainbow at the beach. I know it must be a sign for a good day to start. I can’t wait for the journey to begin!
We first visit a public school in Toamasina, but it is not a usual school. This school accepts children affected by disability and accommodates their learning needs. There are currently 11 children with disabilities studying here. Instead of isolating them, they are integrated with the other students in the same class. By putting them together, and through close interaction, they learn from each other and care for each other. It works well.
When I sit in the primary class, I am amazed by a little boy with two walking sticks writing on the blackboard. Even though he can’t stand properly, he is full of confidence to answer the questions from his teachers. His passion for learning is overwhelming. His mother says he always wished to go school, but he could not make it until he had an operation at the age of five. There is another boy with vision disability in the same classroom. But his disability does not stop his eagerness to learn. Isn’t it ironic that many healthy children in big cities are trying to escape from school while these children with disabilities cherish every opportunity to study?
I then walk by another classroom, which is very unusual, as it is for the pre-school children. It looks like a paradise. With limited resources, yet unlimited creativity, this little bamboo classroom is decorated with the children’s art pieces. The place is full of paper bananas and flowers, artworks and drawings hang over the roof. In such a creative and joyful place, how could children not want to come to school?
In the afternoon, we visit a very special site of a Child Protection Programme – SOS Village Enfant. In this is centre, you will find the school for education, and a home for orphans and for children from vulnerable families. I am impressed with the peaceful environment and I know the children will feel very safe and happy here. To me, this is my most desirable place among all the sites that we have visited in these days.
There are a total of 450 students in the primary school, secondary school and the professional training centre. During our visit, we are surprised with a special treat from four students of the training centre. They treat us to their homemade cupcakes and, believe me, they are delicious. They are receiving three months’ internship training and are about to start work. I feel proud of them.
The most touching part is when I interview the school director about the orphans in the centre. He tells me that they are acting as the parents for the orphans. They will raise them till they grow up; help them finish their high school and university study. And they can live here until they get married or as long as they wish. Wouldn’t you feel touched too?
After the visit to the SOS Village Enfant, we take our return flight back to Tana. We will go back Hong Kong tomorrow. The trip is almost finished and I am so thankful that I could join this meaningful and memorable IWitness trip with UNICEF.