Our integrated education programme includes a variety of locally led initiatives, from classroom workshops and youth club sessions to village outreach tours and radio broadcasts. It supports young people to develop leadership and critical thinking skills, and to play an active role in marine conservation and community development.
Every Saturday morning, primary school-aged children from the village of Andavadoaka gather at our dedicated education centre to take part in "Saturday School": integrated environmental and health education that is hands-on, interactive, creative and fun!
Our education team work with local teachers and Velondriake committee members to plan and deliver the Saturday School sessions, which are open to both in-school and out-of-school children. Saturday School highlights linkages with the national education curriculum where appropriate, providing learning opportunities for those who otherwise have no access to the formal education system, and giving both the teachers and students more ownership over their work and studies as they relate to the environment they live in.
Activities focus on group work, critical thinking and public speaking to allow children to become comfortable discussing their own ideas in a supportive environment. The sessions challenge students and teachers to work together in order to solve problems and find connections across subjects. Youth-led beach clean-ups and field trips to local sites of ecological importance such as mangroves or baobab forests encourage children to continue learning and exploring outside of the classroom.
We are currently working with local teachers from our partner school in Andavadoaka to develop a series of Saturday School session plans that can be used by teachers across Velondriake and other locally managed marine areas. With the leadership of local teachers, community members and former BV scholars, we look to spread this programme throughout the Velondriake area in 2014.
Connecting Classrooms and other youth clubs
We have adapted our "Connecting Classrooms" initiative (originally started through a partnership with UNICEF) to support local youth to develop their communication skills, enabling them to explore new areas of knowledge through research and debate, create and carry out community surveys regarding socially and environmentally relevant topics, and improve their computer skills in order to enter data and present their findings.
This initiative aims to build a pool of local youth with well-rounded skill-sets that they can employ to contribute to integrated education, sustainable development and marine conservation in their communities. Students from our Connecting Classrooms club have been organising monthly talent shows for all community members to share songs, poems and stories, with the aim of increasing community togetherness and social awareness of environmental and health issues.
A girls' club has been established in Velondriake, now with over 70 members attending middle school in Andavadoaka. They have been engaged in reproductive health and personal hygiene seminars, extra tutoring sessions, and English and French lessons. We have also been working with the Steph’Andava Association to establish a weekly French-English club that draws upon games, theatre and public speaking in order to engage students in conservation and help to make them feel more comfortable speaking these foreign languages. It is open to all so each week students, teachers and other community members come together to share this interactive learning experience.
Ten other youth clubs have been established in the Velondriake area to date, and are proving to be active in promoting discussions about various issues among their peers, with support from our education team as requested. Members of "Club Tsontso" are participating in Velondriake management association meetings with their elders, presenting their concerns to village leaders and outside organisations, and organising concrete actions such as beach clean-ups and environmental film screenings. Members of youth clubs in other villages are eager to lead similar initiatives in their communities, and to network with young people from across Velondriake in order to share ideas and resources.
We are therefore supporting youth clubs in Velondriake to organise educational activities according to their own ideas and priorities. A youth leadership conference is due to be held in 2014 in our education centre in Andavadoaka, with participation from members of all Velondriake youth clubs, in order to develop skills and strategies for improving their activities and presence throughout the region. The members of these youth clubs are surely going to be the future leaders of Velondriake, and our work with these young people is ensuring that the next generation will have the capacity to maintain and develop their locally managed marine area.
As part of the Connecting Classrooms initiative, we have also trained a small group of young people in Velondriake to act as citizen journalists, forming a "Junior Reporters' Club". Equipped with dictaphones and flipcams, our junior reporters are able to share important environmental and health messages with their peers through our radio work, and village outreach film screenings or special events organised by the growing network of youth clubs in Velondriake.
Our weekly radio programme, called Feom’Bezo, which means “Voice of the Vezo” in Malagasy, features news and interviews from around the Velondriake area. Due to the extreme isolation of villages in Velondriake, and limited or non-existent telephone network coverage in some places, radio is a highly effective means of sharing information with remote communities. Feom'Bezo has regularly aired 15-minute broadcasts since its inception in October 2011, and acts as an outlet for sharing local musical talent with a wide audience, spreading important environmental and health messages through catchy songs.
We are currently developing our radio work with the Safidy community health and locally managed marine area (LMMA) programme teams, local youth and other community members, by producing a new weekly series of emissions focusing on behaviour change role plays and educational theatre sketches, with questions that can be used as starting points for small group discussions by listening groups throughout Velondriake. These weekly emissions are supplemented with short spots, designed to be broadcast every day to support behaviour change.
Our new radio material has great potential to be aired in other areas beyond Velondriake, with the first site for replication being Belo sur Mer, where Blue Ventures is integrating community-based reproductive health services with locally led mangrove conservation efforts.
Village outreach tours
Our "Village Outreach Tours" visit 20 villages in the Velondriake area (and 10 villages in the Belo sur Mer area) every 3 months in order to raise awareness about environmental and health issues among children, youth and adults. This educational roadshow is a key component of our integrated Population-Health-Environment (PHE) approach, reinforcing the idea that improving health, offering family planning options, increasing access to education, and managing coastal resources sustainably are all essential to striking a balance between the local population and the unique marine environment upon which their livelihoods depend.
These tours include classroom workshops (modelled on Saturday School), youth club sessions and interactive presentations using music, drama, films and games to engage communities in different topics. Integrating various themes enables us to reach broader audiences, for example, informing men about reproductive health and involving women in coastal resource management. We are also supporting a network of nascent youth clubs, and getting feedback from listening groups for our new radio series.