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Madagascar: Donga is back to school


Inclusion | Madagascar | PUBLISHED ON January 23rd 2024
Donga, 10 years old, lives in the suburbs of Analanjirofo in Madagascar

Donga, 10 years old, lives in the suburbs of Analanjirofo in Madagascar. | © Kalo Aristide Renaldo Debe / HI

Donga is 10 years old. He has joined a "bridging" class, which aims to educate disabled children in a mainstream environment.

On the occasion of the International Day of Education, on January 24th, HI reports on difficulties encountered by children with disabilities in accessing education in areas torn apart by crisis.

Donga is a young disabled boy from the suburbs of Analanjirofo, Madagascar. He has problems with his vision, speech difficulties and has difficulties to focus. To this date, no diagnosis has been made to identify his disability.

Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries, with high vulnerability to natural hazards and extreme climatic phenomena such as droughts and cyclones. A large proportion of the population is affected by malnutrition. The country is experiencing a severe and prolonged humanitarian crisis.

The creation of classes suited for disabled children

In 2019, thanks to Donga’s older sister, their parents learned that there are the so-called "integrated bridging classes", which allow disabled children to join the public elementary school in Amparatanàna. An "integrated bridging class" is a class created within a mainstream school, adapted to the skills and needs of disabled students. Its aim is to encourage the integration of disabled children into mainstream schools.

The bridging class at the Amparatanàna school currently accommodates 24 pupils, aged from 6 to 19, with various disabilities.

The bridging classes have a remarkable effect on Donga's development

Donga never went to school before. He stayed at home doing nothing. Since joining the bridging class, his teachers have noticed that he has quickly awakened and integrated with the other pupils. His teachers are confident that one day he will join a regular class:

"Donga is a great facilitator in the classroom! He has learned a lot and his progress is visible. He loves leading his classmates, but also helping them with the activities," says his teacher.

Getting to school is not easy

Because of his disability, and in particular his vision problems, Donga can't go to school on his own. He has to be driven by his parents - who can't afford to buy him glasses.

During hurricane season, the path he takes can quickly become dangerous - especially crossing a footbridge. His parents aren't always available to accompany him, especially when they're working. When this happens, or when the weather conditions are bad, Donga stays at home.

The impact of Covid

Donga's education was interrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the school closed from March to October 2020 due to the lockdown. But he continued his lessons thanks to his teacher, who regularly came to his home to drop off his homework, and to his parents, who helped him doing it.

During the pandemic, Donga's parents lost their jobs and could no longer afford to pay their son's school fees and supplies. Donga had to stop going to school for a few months, but resumed when his parents started earning money again.

Despite the many obstacles, the ongoing involvement and support of his parents and teacher enabled Donga to continue his education. This has enabled him to progress in his education and to flourish alongside other children.

"My dream is to become a car or motorcycle driver when I grow up. I want to be just like the other kids!", insists Donga with great enthusiasm.

HI has published the report "Always Included: Uninterrupted education for children with disabilities before, during, and after a crisis", from which this article is taken. The report describes how children's education is interrupted by crises, based on case studies from Burkina Faso, Palestine and Madagascar. Around the world, 72 million children are out of school due to emergencies and extended crises, 17% of them are children with disabilities. In West and Central Africa, over 13,250 schools have closed, including 6,150 in Burkina Faso. In Madagascar, floods and cyclones have had a devastating impact on the continuity of education, destroying learning materials and infrastructure.

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