December 2016

Update from Madagascar School Project

In the past year the Madagascar School Project's Sekoly Tenaquip has grown by over 100 students to now serve 750 rural students from the surrounding villages. The school is now embarking on building their final 6 classroom building and will then have enough space for their whole kindergarten through grade 12 school. Next they will focus on permaculture landscaping for their extensive site that includes school buildings, farm, staff housing and recreational land. This is an exciting time of growth for this cutting edge educational project. Here is the latest from their newsletter. - ed

The Madagascar School Project is working hard to bring creative pedagogy to our thriving school in Madagascar.

We are working to make education more meaningful for our teachers and students through an integrated approach that teaches to the whole body, head, heart and hands.

This is a world apart from what is common educational practice in this country, where  classes of up to 80 students spend many hours every day copying by rote information from the blackboard into their notebooks. Most schools have few other supplies.

Typically they learn facts in French, which is not their maternal language so that they can memorize these for school exams at the end of each term and for state exams at the end of Grades 6, 10 and 13. Students who do not pass these exams, need to repeat the whole year. Many never pass.

The Madagascar School Project Education is inspired from our many years of experience as teachers in Ontario and by Kathy’s  training as a Waldorf teacher.  We strive to reinvigorate the pedagogy of Madagascar with fresh, engaging and relevant education for each of our 750 students.

 They will need tolearn not only basic skills, but a great deal of flexibility of thought, creative imagining, strong communication skills and problem solving ability, if they are to succeed in the world. These students may be living their adult lives working in the fields, raising animals, or as professionals in office settings, or as entrepreneurs in a city or rural setting. A holistic approach is the only way we can prepare our students for these very different options. We strive to enliven their curiosity and imagination for what could be created with their good effort.

As part of their education the students are learning handwork skills such as knitting, crochet, embroidery and basket making. They are learning about how to take care of themselves and their future families by taking part in cooking, farming, growing trees, building, cleaning and maintaining the school. They are learning  how to communicate with each other in Malagasy, French and English. We hope one day, to also offer woodworking, and welding.

How to create the will and the confidence in a child that he/she can make a difference in the world? Well, we start with the state curriculum and add stories from the Malagasy culture and history. Our geography and science learning begins with their own country and it’s unique flora and fauna. Historical heroes and other famous people are studied to understand what motivated them and to realize the gifts they gave the world through their work. This builds a confidence in the students as Malagasy people, that has been sorely missing since Colonial days.

Then there is a need to build the imagination to envision what could be possible and to give voice to the individual. We achieve this through the arts. By giving the children the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, to sing together as a group, to try on  different roles in dramatic productions and to make beautiful art work with paint, clay from the rice fields, and materials from nature, the children have opportunities every day to explore who they are and to make their mark on the world.

Imagine, a place where few homes have even a pencil, never mind paper, to be able to bring home a water colour painting that is your creation. What joy and confidence that must enliven.

In order for our students to make lasting positive changes in their country they will have to develop a strong moral compass.  Corruption is a part of life in Madagascar and our students will need to learn to stand up for what is right. We will work at this by bringing them stories from mankind’s history and mythology, in which characters struggle with the weaknesses and temptations and where  strength, determination and compassion enable people to do great things.

One of the most important innovations we are bringing is to facilitate deep understanding of concepts they are learning through real demonstrations, practice with materials, questioning, discussing, and role playing. To achieve this we need to promote the sharing of experiences among students, the idea that mistakes lead to new learning, and that honest dialogue will help both the teachers and the students understand what learning can enable.

All these skills will be essential for this community to learn to run it’s own school and to achieve the financial success through cooperative business endeavors to secure education and a comfortable life for their children and generations to come.

Thank you for your interest and support.