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Colette, working for the inclusion of people with disabilities in Madagascar


Inclusion | Madagascar | PUBLISHED ON January 23rd 2024
Colette Velosoa teaching a class at the Collège d'enseignement général François de Mahy. March 2023.

Colette Velosoa teaching a class at the Collège d'enseignement général François de Mahy. March 2023. | © Rakotondraparany D. Njara / HI

Colette is 42 years old. At the age of 11, her right arm was amputated. Colette now teaches English and is committed to raising her students’ awareness of disability issues.

Breaking down prejudices about disability in schools

Colette lives in Antsiranana with her family. She has been teaching since 2013 and currently works as an English teacher at the Collège d'Enseignement Général François de Mahy.

When she was younger, her dream was to become a lawyer, but she eventually went into teaching. She loves passing on her knowledge to her students, and above all, she loves to see them develop and progress. The determination shown by her students in their efforts to learn the language are a great source of motivation for Colette.

As well as teaching English, Colette seeks to raise her students' awareness of disability issues. She sees students with disabilities being excluded by their peers, so she doesn't hesitate to share her story.

"When I was 11, I fell from a tree and broke my arm in the fall. The reason I am an amputee is that I didn’t receive the treatment I needed in time to save my arm. After my amputation, I felt a change in the way people treated me," says Colette.

She noticed that the people she met viewed her with mistrust and thought she was incapable of doing anything. Because of her experience, she is happy to answer her students' questions about her disability to help break down barriers and foster mutual understanding.

"The biggest lesson I've learned in my life is resilience – the ability to face up to challenges. And to always live your life according to your own choices," says Colette, who has made her disability her strength.

Working for the inclusion of people with disabilities

Since 2017, alongside her work as a teacher, Colette has been a member of the Collectif Régional des Organisations de Personnes Handicapées de la région DIANA (Regional Collective of Organisations of People with Disabilities in the DIANA region), making friends and meeting up with peers to share advice, exchange ideas and learn from others. Colette, along with some other people from the association, has formed a language group and is teaching French to members.

As part of the HELASIA project, HI has supported this association by providing training on disability, the rights of people with disabilities, and even on public speaking.

For Colette, the project has been very beneficial, enabling her to develop as a person, thanks notably to the training on disability rights, speaking in public and income-generating activities.

But Colette knows that there is still a long way to go to improve the inclusion of people with disabilities in Madagascar. In her view, it will require education and vocational training. She considers information and awareness raising about disability to be essential because, in the long term, changing the way people perceive disability will have an impact on the lives of those living with disabilities.

The HELASIA project, Health, Education and Livelihoods in Africa, is a sustainable inclusion approach funded by Norad. Implemented by HI from 2020 to June 2023 in five countries, including Madagascar, this project empowered 1,833 children with disabilities, trained 1,664 teachers in inclusive education practices and provided tailored assistance to 389 children with disabilities in 74 schools. In addition, 172 local organisations of people with disabilities were supported and strengthened.

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