(MissionNewswire) In order to help youth break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness, Salesian missionaries in Madagascar operate elementary, middle and high schools throughout the country. The focus is on providing educational opportunities, increasing literacy and laying a foundation for education well past the compulsory education required in the country. Access to education and training in social and life skills encourages young students to find livable wage employment, breaking the cycle of poverty.
Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. Seventy percent of Madagascar’s almost 19 million people live in poverty with 5.7 million of those youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years, according to UNICEF. This number is expected to double by 2025. Due to Madagascar’s poverty, geography and an ongoing political crisis, the country is ranked 158 out of the 188 countries classified by the 2015 human development index of the United Nations Development Program. Women and children in the country are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poverty.
For close to 80 percent of the country’s inhabitants who live in rural areas and practice subsistence farming, living conditions have been steadily declining in recent years, particularly when it comes to access to transportation, health services, education and markets. Because of the lack of hygiene and access to safe drinking water coupled with chronic malnutrition, people in Madagascar often suffer from respiratory ailments, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
“Families are often so desperate in Madagascar that they force their children to drop out of school so they can send them to work in dangerous and exploitive jobs just for the money,” explains Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
Salesian missionaries operate a number of programs that assist poor youth and their families. For example, since 2007, missionaries have opened 41 elementary schools, four middle schools and three high schools for children whose families otherwise would not be able to afford an education. Students who successfully complete high school have the opportunity to attend the Salesian-run university in Ambanja.
“We also focus on practical training because it gives youth a better chance to find a decent job and become self-sufficient adults,” explains Bishop Rosario Vella, a Salesian priest serving in Madagascar since 1981.
At the Salesian Vocational Training Center in Antananarivo, students learn in-demand trades such as carpentry and civil engineering. Targeted apprenticeship programs ensure they graduate with the real-world experience that makes them valuable to employers.
In addition, through projects like TAIZA, a Salesian-led family support network, young, impoverished mothers and their babies can access social services as well as health education and clinics, and participate in peer support groups and literacy programs. These projects help improve developmental, educational and economic outcomes, and offer a crucial first step toward better lives and opportunities.
“This road is long, but it is one we are committed to travel alongside our Malagasy sisters and brothers,” says Bishop Vella. “We are confident that, with these and similar interventions, youth will not only secure a stable future for themselves but will also directly contribute to the modernization and growth of Madagascar as a whole.”
PHOTOS: ©Florian Kopp / Salesian Missions (May not be used without permission.)
Salesian Missions – Madagascar: The Future Begins with Youth
UNCIEF – Madagascar