Exciting News from the ZAZA Project :)

Dear Friends of ZAZA,

I hope you are all doing well 🙂 Alastair and I recently got back from a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, where I presented at the International Primatological Society Congress. We also took some time after the conference to travel around and see some of Vietnam’s primate species, and celebrate a little bit because…. On July 10 of this year I defended my Ph.D. at the University of Victoria, and so now I am officially Dr. Jody Weir, and not a student anymore, for the first September in 5 years!

The hardest part of this transition has been wondering when and how I would get back to Madagascar. There has been a remarkable ‘baby boom’ in Maromizaha forest this year and I am so grateful that we have our ZAZA Local Monitoring Team working to follow the infants during their first 6 months of life. Within our 5 focal groups of diademed sifaka, we have 8 infants this year, and within 5 focal groups of indri, we have 3 infants!! My wonderful parents, hearing how much I wanted to get to the forest, check in with my team and see all these infants, have gifted me a flight to Madagascar as a graduation present -Best Present Ever!! This means I will be able to follow up with the research, the Local Monitoring Team and the ZAZA Scholarship Program in October when I get there.

Here is a little summary/re-cap of how the school system and ZAZA works in Madagascar:

The ZAZA Scholarship Program is about to enter its fourth year of scholarships. We are hoping to provide scholarships to 40 students this year (each scholarship is valued at approximately $100 USD) and we are only a about $600 USD short of attaining this goal.

School is compulsory for children 6–14 years old. The public education provides primary schooling for the first 5 years (ages 6-11). After that, students/parents are required to pay fees that essentially pay the teachers/administration etc. in addition to paying for their uniform, notebooks, book protectors, pens, compasses, rulers, and all other needed supplies. In addition, if there isn’t secondary education school (see next section) in the village, then students need to travel to the nearest village with a school each day, or, in most cases they pay room and board in the village with the school and stay there Monday-Friday and go home on weekends (school year runs October-June). This is the case in Anevoka and Beforona, the two villages nearest the forest where I work.

Working with teachers in the area we calculated that the cost for a child to go to school outside their village is roughly $100. Since most people live off their land, and by cooperation/trading with neighbors for food, cash is not something that most people have in these villages. Most people do not have cash, or need the little that they have for food, and so most children do not go to school past year 5.

Secondary school is a combination of junior highschool for 4 years (students aged 12–15) and senior highschool for 3 years (16–18). At the end of junior highschool, graduates receive a certificate, and at the end of senior highschool graduates receive their baccalauréat (equivalent of a highschool diploma). The University of Madagascar, established in 1951, has 6 separate Universities around Madagascar. The baccalauréat is required for admission to university.

Our first cohort of ZAZA Scholars is about to enter their last year of junior highschool and hopefully will earn their certificate at the end of this school year. If they are successful, and their parents are supportive, their next step would be the 3-year senior highschool program.

Again, the whole ZAZA Scholarship Program is based on the students who achieve the top grades. This is the only way to keep it fair and plus, that’s generally the way scholarships work 🙂

Please get in touch with me, or my mom (Jill) if you have any questions or would like to support the ZAZA Project in any way. We would also be grateful if you shared our website (www.zazaproject.com) with anyone who may be interested.

Best wishes,