The ZAZA Scholarship Program was created in 2011 to help Malagasy kids go to school. In Madagascar, school is compulsory for children 6–14 years old. The public education system provides primary schooling for the first 5 years (ages 6-11). After that, parents are required to pay school fees in addition to paying for their child’s uniform, notebooks, book protectors, pens, compasses, rulers, and all other needed supplies. In addition, if there isn’t a secondary education school 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 USD. Since most people live off their land, and by cooperating/trading with neighbours for food, the majority of people do not have cash, or need the little that they have for food, and therfore 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. Currently, 40 students are supported by the ZAZA Scholarship Program.
The whole ZAZA Scholarship Program is based on the students who achieve the top grades in Year 5. This is the only way to keep it fair and assure everyone that I do not pick certain students out of personal preference. Plus, that’s generally the way a 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.