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Mahatalaky CEG High School, Mahatalaky, Anosy Region Madagascar
January - March 2011 SEED Madagascar Volunteers
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world – and considered on of the highest conservation priorities in the world, with 80% of the estimated 200 thousand native species in Madagascar found nowhere else. Approximately 2/3 of the over 20 million people living in Madagascar are on the edge of survival, with an average yearly income of less than US$250.
SEED Madagascar works in the Anosy region, one of the poorest and most ecologically fragile areas of Madagascar, with the joint aims of improving the health, education and quality of life for local people, and protect the unique environment. SEED works closely with local people, establishing their needs & what their priorities are in order to aid the development of strong, healthy, independent communities.
In 2011, as part of a long-term relationship with the community of Mahatalaky – a semi-rural market town about 35km from Fort Dauphin – SEED constructed a new Mahatalaky CEG (a secondary or ‘11+’ school) consisting of 4 school buildings (8 classrooms), a well for safe drinking water and a school latrine with separate cubicles for girls and boys. Prior to these buildings being constructed the Mahatalaky CEG served some 300 students; as the only public middle school covering a population of over 35,000 people, but it had no premises of its own and had been operating out of two classrooms in the local primary school. This sharing of space meant that students had to be taught on rotation, each only getting a couple of hours a day of lessons. Not only was this placing pressure on the older students, but was restricting the ability of the primary school to operate effectively.
SEED volunteers worked on a range of projects, including digging foundations, brick laying, formation of reinforcing cages, construction of desks, painting the classrooms and constructing the well. The January – March 2011 team of volunteers were the first team to work on this project, and (in between the weather) contributed to the major construction aspects of the first building. In addition we carried out tree-planting work, or constructed fuel efficient stoves for families in Beandry.
Like the rest of the world, the Anosy region is suffering from the effects of climate change, with rains arriving earlier & heavier each summer. Quite apart from the effect this had on our ability to work on site, in the 10 days we were in Beandry, we saw the rice paddies flooded under 1m or more of water twice. To the local people, this meant the loss of both food & income.
The school buildings were constructed in brick, with rock foundations & an insitu reinforced concrete post & beam structure. The brickwork formed part of the formwork for the concrete post & beams. To save both time & cost, much of the brickwork was laid with clay grout’ rather than cement grout – which is fun to work with but – especially when combined with uneven bricks – makes laying level lines of bricks something of a challenge!
There was much about the construction to concern a Western architect – but the standard of construction materials & tools we are used to here are just not readily available in rural Madagascar. Enquiries about shipping good quality tools from NZ to SEED in Fort Dauphin, elicited the response that it would cost more in ‘fees’ to get the tools through customs, than to purchase tools available in Madagascar. The April to June volunteer team that followed, applied the plaster finish & painted the exterior walls.
SEED Madagascar runs four 10 week schemes a year, with the option to join a team for 2-3 weeks as a short term volunteer.
Visit madagascar.co.uk to find out more, if you want to volunteer or donate.
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