Projects - 7 July 2023

Madagascar: Education in Action in Rural Areas

In Madagascar, access to education is a major challenge for young people, especially in rural areas. To help address this, Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (BSF) has deployed an Ideas Box at the Fianarantsoa campus and five Ideas Cubes in several surrounding “boarding schools for success” since 2022, aiming to improve the quality of education for middle school students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Trained by BSF teams, teachers use these tools and custom-selected content every day to enhance the students’ skills and thus to combat dropout rates.

According to UNICEF, the proportion of Malagasy children not attending school in rural areas is twice as high as that of non-attending youth from urban areas. Schools are often situated far from the communities’ living areas, making the daily commute difficult—if not impossible—for many children. In addition to this geographical barrier, there is a socio-economic one: many local residents face a low standard of living, and often cannot afford school fees, or to buy books and supplies.

In this context, the Malagasy association PROMES—as a part of the CERES program and with the support of the IECD—established five “boarding schools for success” in the vicinity of the Fianarantsoa campus in the central highlands of the island in 2006, with the goal of ensuring the education of local youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Thus, 256 students from seventh to ninth grade join these boarding schools weekly. Beyond academic knowledge, these schools also offer students an environment in which they can learn to live in a community setting. At the end of eighth grade, the most promising students are admitted to a special class at the Fianarantsoa middle school to help prepare them for a fluid and successful entry into high school.

“Education allows us to open up both to ourselves and to others. But it is not enough to know everything; we must above all be capable of autonomy, curiosity, and empathy. This is the whole point of the CERES project and our partnership with BSF.” Jeanne Clara Ialiarisoandrianina, History teacher, media librarian, and coordinator of BSF activities at the Fianarantsoa campus.

BSF’s actions align with these goals. One Ideas Box has been deployed at the Fianarantsoa campus library since spring 2022, allowing teachers and students daily access to content custom-selected by our teams. This includes books to strengthen language, math, and science skills, comics, board games, as well as preventative healthcare videos, Zumba classes, exam preparation tips, and even career guidance resources.

In the five boarding schools located further out from the campus, BSF has also deployed Ideas Cubes, energetically self-sufficient digital libraries which provide access to thousands of educational and cultural resources without the need for an internet connection.

“The arrival of the Ideas Boxes and the Ideas Cubes has significantly improved our way of working. Since then, we have integrated these tools into our daily activities, using the numerous available resources to prepare our lessons. Before, we only had a few textbooks. Today, young people have access to hundreds of books, video exercises, tablets, cameras, and computers. For many of them, it’s a completely new experience!” Jeanne Clara Ialiarisoandrianina.

In one year, BSF teams have trained about forty teachers, pedagogical advisors, and educators in the use and appropriation of these tools and their contents.

“Access to the Ideas Boxes or Ideas Cubes is not enough on its own; the role of the teacher is essential to facilitate learning. These training sessions provide an opportunity to examine the mediators’ practices when sharing knowledge with their students—who should be at the heart of their pedagogical approach.” Marie Aquili, mediation manager at BSF.

“BSF’s tools support our philosophy: here, teachers are not the masters of knowledge—their students are! Lectures are not beneficial to anyone; people stand to learn much from one another. Our job is not to transmit knowledge but rather to accompany the students in their search for information and their acquisition of knowledge.” Jeanne Clara Ialiarisoandrianina.

In spring 2023, a workshop based on “Human Centered Design” methodology notably allowed teachers to identify their daily challenges—such as learning French—and to imagine solutions to address them through play.

“Many students do not speak French well, even though it is the official language of the Malagasy school curriculum. They sometimes struggle to express themselves. Rather than a language course, we organize playful workshops several times a month within the Ideas Box. Thanks to games like Matador, Time’s Up, or Blablabla, participants open up more easily, as they are less afraid of making mistakes and stuttering.” Jeanne Clara Ialiarisoandrianina.

“Play is serious! The brain integrates knowledge more easily when it is relaxed—when there is pleasure and trust. During the training, participants, for example, imagined the creation of a ‘word bar’ within the Ideas Box. The concept: ordering at the bar using and discovering new words. This presents another way to approach language, more lively, playful, and uninhibited!” Marie Aquili.

In total, over 1,000 students and teachers currently benefit from our actions in the Fianarantsoa region. Following a recent assessment of the educational teams, new content will seek to enrich the documentary fund of our Ideas Boxes and Cubes in the coming months. In particular, there will be more educational materials and bilingual Malagasy/French books, as well as resources focusing on sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, and project management.

© Marie Aquili & CERES Program

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