Projects - 17 April 2023

Mayotte: The Education Crisis

In Mayotte, Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (BSF) and the French Red Cross (CRf) have deployed Ideas Boxes over the past two years to encourage the integration of disadvantaged teenagers and young adults in the communes of Koungou, Dembéni, Bandrélé and Sada. Supporting the work of the CRf’s street educators, the media library kit provides young Mahorans and refugee communities with the means to strengthen their capacities for expression, understanding, and to regain their self-confidence: often enough for some of them to return to school, find training, or secure a job. 

Interview with Daniel Madi Doua, Ideas Box coordinator at the CRf.

In Mayotte, nearly a third of school-age youth are not in school—primarily those from immigrant and disadvantaged backgrounds. Recognizing the urgent need to fortify Mayotte’s educational system, BSF and CRf joined forces two years ago. This collaboration has sought to respond to the educational emergency and address the learning needs of these children and adolescents through the deployment of Ideas Boxes at several CRf centers across the island.

Led by specialist prevention educators from the CRf, the mobile media library is used by around a hundred young Mahorans and refugees every week who are out of school, without training, or looking for work. Trained by BSF, the CRf teams utilize the contents of the Ideas Box to offer them academic support and thematic workshops adapted to their specific needs and levels.

“Mayotte is a land of immigration: young people there are mainly Mahoran, but also Comorian, Malagasy, Congolese, Tanzanian, Sri Lankan, and Indian. Many among them have never been to school, and therefore cannot read or write. The Ideas Box allows them to experience, though to a lesser degree than they would at school, learning to read and write, receiving help with their homework, school trips, etc.” Daniel Madi Doua.

According to the INSEE, the unemployment rate for young Mahorans aged 15 to 29 is 43%—three times higher than in mainland France. For these young people, meetings are sometimes organized through the Ideas Box with professionals—mechanics, teachers, and more—to allow them to better understand different aspects of each profession. Guided by integration advisors, they are also supported in their search for internships and jobs: help with writing cover letters, preparation for interviews, administrative follow-up, etc.

“The contents of the Ideas Box are extremely valuable to us: they structure the educational and integration projects that the CRf has been carrying out for several years, and they help to create bridges between young people and the job market. By having their first professional experience, they can enrich their CV, immerse themselves in a world that is unknown to them and, above all, regain their self-confidence.” Daniel Madi Doua.


of the population of Mayotte is under 25 years old (INSEE)


of young Mahorans experience difficulty reading (Ministry of National Education)


of young people aged 15 to 29 who have completed their schooling have not obtained a qualifying diploma (INSEE)

In addition to the materials relating to social and professional integration, our teams have also selected numerous books, thesauri, albums, films, and board games in multiple languages with the help of booksellers, librarians, and other partners, to promote local culture.

“Most young Mahorans do not know their history. It was important to us that many of the Ideas Box resources focused on Mayotte and its neighboring islands: its history, its heritage, its cuisine, its music, its traditional dances, and its landscapes. In order not to exclude anyone, particularly those who cannot read or write, special attention was also paid to the accessibility of this content: picture books, comics without text, and photographic documentaries were also selected.” Daniel Madi Doua.

With the Ideas Box cameras, Daniel recalls a video workshop organized over several weeks with around ten young people. The objective: to tell the history of the island using the contents of the library.

“One by one, they went about recounting the major events which marked the history of Mayotte in a video clip: its successive invasions, slavery, colonization, the independence of the Comoros, etc. In addition to this learning, the exercise was above all an opportunity for them to overcome their fear of public speaking and speaking in front of a camera!” Daniel Madi Doua.

After all, this is the main goal of the Ideas Box: to give its users the means to express themselves, to speak up, to engage in dialogue, and to gain confidence. These are essential qualities for integration or re-integration.

“The Ideas Box is a great tool to get them talking, to allow them to say what’s on their minds. These young people are going through so much and are often navigating very difficult situations. In this space, they open up with complete confidence, talk about their experiences, meet up with others, and make friends. This place belongs to them. Here, we don’t judge anyone. We live together, we forget our origins, and we concentrate on what is most essential: being together!” Daniel Madi Doua.

For two years, the French Red Cross has implemented the Ideas Box in partnership with BSF as well as numerous local structures including youth and cultural centers, associations, town halls, and libraries. More than 2,000 people have already benefitted from these initiatives.

Bibliothèques Sans Frontières empowers vulnerable populations by facilitating access to education, culture, and information. In France and in more than 30 countries, the association creates innovative spaces to live and shelters that allow people affected by crises and uncertainty to have fun, create links, and build their futures.


Translation: Gustavo Romero