The Green Schools of Madagascar
Sophie Küspert Rakotondrainy and Tolonjo Saranga Andriamparany Rakotondrainy
Madagascar was once covered with forests. Now around 90% of these forests have been destroyed by human activity and the country is suffering from erosion, lack of clean drinking water, floods and declining soil fertility. Many unique plants and animal species are endangered or extinct because of bush fires, damaged habitats and the unsustainable exploitation of resources. Mparany and Sophie (project co-ordinator and volunteer) explain how the Green Schools Bara* project is tackling these environmental problems, while also promoting educational inclusion.
How is this an inclusion issue?
Green Schools Bara encourages children to love and respect nature. Without this, no effort to protect the environment will succeed. Children learn that nature is something beautiful, valuable and worth protecting. Aesthetic activities are often combined with environmental work, encouraging children to create cleaner, healthier surroundings.
We want children to feel part of their community, and to understand that everyone is responsible for the future of the environment and of Madagascar. It is widely recognised that inclusive education helps to build an inclusive society; that’s why our project believes every child can develop love and care for nature and can speak out against over-exploitation and destruction of their environment. All children can participate in growing trees and flowers and protecting animals. Our green activities aim to be truly inclusive regardless of the children’s intellectual or physical capacity.
Linking with the curriculum
Samoela is a young teacher who works for the Green School in Tsingilofilobe. Tsingilofilobe is not the biggest or most successful school in the project, but in the last year it has seen the greatest transformation thanks to Samoela’s efforts. He has an agricultural education as well as his teaching diploma. This makes him a useful resource for the school and the local community.
“We have many different activities here in Tsingilofilobe. We always combine environmental or agricultural activities with school subjects. This makes the activities even more interesting and useful, and we can include all the children, no matter which grade they are in.” (Samoela)
The children carefully guard the place where they grow beans and peanuts. When their products are sold at the market they develop their maths skills and learn about finances and trading. The money earned is used for cooking, leisure and other school activities.
“We mixed together grated manioc, oil and sugar and fried it into small cakes. We had never eaten such cake before, but everyone liked it because it tasted really good!” (A pupil)
The school in Tsingilofilobe has a compost area, where the children learn how to deal with natural waste products and how to reuse them as fertilizer for growing vegetables and trees.
“This is useful for our agricultural projects, but it is also a practical experience in science lessons. It makes it easier for everyone to understand what is happening in nature.” (Sameola)
Activities like making compost and planting vegetables are suitable for children of all ages and abilities. They also make the teaching more interesting and relevant – which is vital to ensure that all children feel included at school and to improve their lives in the surrounding agricultural community.
Every school in the project is encouraged to plant a tree nursery, thus improving the environment and counteracting deforestation. This is a whole-school activity where pupils learn to work together. Many of the Green Schools divide children into groups of mixed ages, sexes and abilities. Each group has one day per week which they devote to looking after the trees.
Pupils weeding the school field
“We like our school yard. We sit here and talk about what we are
doing in school.”
Geometric flower beds
Flowerbeds are laid out in different shapes in front of Tsingilofilobe school – one round, one rectangular, one square and one triangular. The teacher and students combine garden planting with mathematics. The children learn the shapes and how to calculate surface area, etc, while they decorate the school yard with colourful flowers. Mathematics is also included in activities such as measuring the tree nursery and counting how many trees are being planted.
When we, as project staff, visited recently we saw the children weeding. They were very proud that the plants were getting big. They feel at home surrounded by nature and they love their school. With this sort of friendly and welcoming environment it is easier to include all children, not only children with particular disabilities but also those who otherwise would drop out or not start to learn at all.
Including disabled learners
Inclusive education is still a very new concept in Madagascar. However, Green Schools Bara is working hard to promote inclusion and change traditional attitudes. The remoteness of the project schools and the harsh terrain make it difficult for many children to get to school. Making connections with other schools and institutions is also problematic. Our schools currently include some children with mild physical, hearing and intellectual impairments, although they are not yet as inclusive as we would like. We have developed links with an education centre for deaf and blind learners in the town of Antsirabe, and have trained teachers on these issues. We also made a study tour to the East African island of Zanzibar in early 2009, to see the inclusive education programme there. EENET helped us to arrange this. We gathered many ideas that we will adapt and implement.
Green Schools Bara is a project within the Integrated Rural Development Project (known as SoFaBa) in the South-West of Madagascar.
- improve the quality of the schools, e.g. modern teaching methods
- contribute to a better natural environment, better food sufficiency and better health for pupils and communities
- promote gender equality and inclusion of disabled children.
Key features of the project
- 11 schools, 700 pupils up to fifth grade, 21 teachers
- schools are spread over a vast, remote area, accessed only by foot (an area ‘forgotten’ by the government and non-governmental organisations)
- the project helps the local community to build and rehabilitate schools and supplies materials, and offers regular teacher training and motivation sessions
- teachers are employed by the government or the church, not by the project.
Sophie is a volunteer in the Green Schools Bara project and is also studying educational science. Mparany is a qualified teacher and the co-ordinator of the project.
* The Bara is one of Madagascar’s 18 ethnic groups. They are traditionally semi-nomadic cattle herders, with few agricultural traditions. The Bara region is one of the island’s most remote and ‘difficult’ areas. Green Schools Bara works in this region, although villages from other ethnic groups, not just the Bara, are welcome as project partners.