UNICEF on way to educating 1 million out-of-school young in Madagascar

UNICEF on way to educating 1 million out-of-school young in Madagascar

As part of a joint effort to educate Madagascar's estimated 1 million out-of-school adolescents, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Education have "graduated" 258 out-of-school youngsters, a tiny fraction of those in need but still a start for the ambitious initiative.

"While it is true that in the big scheme of things, this is a small step, it is nevertheless, an important one," UNICEF's Chief of Education Francisco Basili said.

"Every child has a right to an education and it is important that we find these school dropouts understand better why they are not in school and identify local and national resources to comprehensively integrate them back into society."

Over the past year the joint initiative, known as DESCOL, has helped more than 400 youngsters attain both basic education and vocational skills in the Indian Ocean island of some 18 million inhabitants, where one in every five children still does not go to school and only 39 out of every 100 pupils complete primary school.

"I was so glad the day my mother saw the poster advertising this project," said William, 16, one of the new graduates who lives in the capital Antananarivo. "I dropped out of school in the third grade because my father did not have a job and my family was too poor to send me to school. But due to this initiative, I can make receipts and even bake cakes."

DESCOL operates in 17 districts around Antananarivo. With UNICEF and Ministry of Education help each district identifies local artists who take in the young people as apprentices and provide them with future income generating skills in areas such as baking, mechanics and tailoring.

Running for nine months for each group of young people, it includes three months of basic education training when young people learn basic numeric, Malagasy, French and civic education, including HIV/AIDS prevention and health issues, followed by a six month vocational training course.