The role of a teacher comes with social prestige in Madagascar. Teachers are treated with great respect by their community similar to a community elder. At the same time this comes with the responsibility to be a role model and actively participate in the community life and its development. When Zahana will launch microcredit projects, it is expected by the community that the teachers will play an active role in implementing and assisting in these efforts, such as keeping the books and advising and supervising the projects.
Experience has shown that is takes a while to find a suitable candidate that is flexible enough to work in an environment that never had a school before and is willing to move to a remote village without any infrastructure, where the next smaller town with a health center is over an hours walk away.
On the plus side Fiarenana is a community wiling, interested and ready to changing their situation. They already have much greater crop diversity than surrounding villages and grow many fruit trees that shade their village. Since April of 2009 Fiarenana also has a new community well, with safe clean drinking water. In our neighboring pilot village site of Fiadanana, the running clean and safe drinking water was the deciding factor for the two teachers to accept their post two years ago (link).
Since most subsistence villages in Madagascar are very poor they cannot afford to pay a teachers salary, but public schools are often not available either where parents have to pay also fees for their children. This means their children go without any formal education and do not learn to read and write. To help communities overcoming this obstacle, Zahana helps them financially with the building materials and the expertise to built their school. Based on Zahanas participatory development philosophy building the school is a joint effort, but after completion the upkeep and maintenance of the building becomes the communitys responsibility. The same applies for water systems or grain storage buildings and other participatory efforts.
The new teacher
Zahana has solicited the help of a educational consultant that has visited Fiarenena to assess the educational needs of the community training requirements needed for the teacher. Zahana is actively finding and training a suitable teacher as well as paying the teachers salary for the first two years. This is done in the hope, that after that initial period, the community sees the value of having a teacher in their community and works something out with them to maintain them in their community. Zahana is a small organization with a very limited budget and is not able to commit to pay salaries or other obligations for the long run, and so far we could only built a second school, although we received more requests for schools from other villages.