IKEA co-workers from Austria are on their way to Madagascar, where they’ll visit UNICEF projects we fund through the Soft Toys for Education campaign.
In this post, Roger Ramanantsoa, an education specialist for UNICEF Madagascar, explains the devastating impact that poverty and lack of education has on Madagascar, and how UNICEF is working tirelessly to change these trends.
In Madagascar, around 1.5 million children are out of school. There has been a 5.5% increase in drop-out rates over the past five years, and only 3 out of 10 children actually finish a full cycle of primary education. An estimated 92% of the Malagasy population lives below the poverty line.
Children are suffering in Madagascar, and we in the education section of UNICEF are trying to do our best to make sure that they are not the primary victims of the crisis. We have a responsibility to ensure that all children have the same start in life and that no single generation is sacrificed.
What are the major issues? Children often have to walk several kilometers (4-7km) to get to the nearest school, exposing them to many risks along the way. They arrive tired, hungry and unmotivated. There is also a lack of functional school facilities and, unfortunately, little investment in the expansion of schools.
To this must be added the lack of classroom equipment as well as learning materials. There is a shortage of teachers, with around 70% of teachers employed directly by the community, an additional financial burden on parents who are already struggling to send their children to school due to schools fees, uniforms and materials that need to be bought.
In order to survive, families need their children to work in the fields or to do other menial tasks to earn money. Also, teachers have invariably not finished a full cycle of schooling and have received little or no training, impacting negatively on the quality of the teaching offered in classrooms.
Many parents also have a negative perception of education and are themselves illiterate, so they don’t see the value of education for the development of their children, their families and the community at large. Unfortunately, the reduction of the government’s education budget, especially in this time of instability and uncertainty, only exacerbates the problem.
Given this bleak picture, we at UNICEF work on a daily basis with the Ministry of Education to maximise the use of the minimal resources that exist. We’re working to improve children’s access to a better quality education by:
- building and equipping classrooms
- supporting the implementation of school-based improvement plans
- allocating grants to community teachers
- supporting the development of teacher-training networks
- providing school kits for all primary school children
- promoting school registration and back-to-school campaigns
- designing innovative solutions for excluded children to be included
Thanks to funding from the IKEA Foundation’s Soft Toys for Education campaign, we are able to reach [hundreds/thousands] of children with better schools, better teachers and better opportunities for the future. We want this generation to reverse the damaging trends that poverty and poor education have inflicted on their parents. Thanks to your support, we have a chance to change children’s futures.