Our goal is to educate, engage, and inspire future generations in conservation
Environmental education forms the essential foundation in the implementation of sustainable resource management and conservation. Unfortunately, state education standards and facilitates are poor; most ‘learning’ in Ifaty’s public primary school (which provides education for 800+ children in only three classrooms) is simply copying what is written on the blackboard. We have therefore implemented various interactive and engaging curricular and extra-circular initiatives for local children over the last decade. Teaching children about the environment and sustainability will help to prepare them for the time when they are making the decisions in their community. Our goal is to educate, engage, and inspire future generations in conservation, so that as they grow into adults they will use their knowledge of how to care for the environment and sustainable living to teach following generations.
Prior to 2004, marine science was not taught in the local schools. We therefore worked with Ifaty’s school director and the Ministry of Education in Toliara to introduce a marine science component to the school curriculum. This led to the creation of specific marine curriculum for all schools in the Bay of Ranobe. In 2006, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, and after training 34 teachers, this curriculum was implemented into seven public primary schools in the Bay of Ranobe, teaching 900 children about their local marine environment. The organisation Project d’Appui aux Communates des Pecheurs started overseeing this project in 2012 to implement our marine curriculum on a wider regional scale.
We have also been running ‘Kids Club’ since 2003. This is a weekly event held at our special community education classroom for the school children of Ifaty. With the help of Reef Doctor volunteers and interns, these fun and interactive sessions aim to educate children on various environmental topics and get them involved in conservation activities such as regular beach cleans. In 2017, we also initiated pre-school sessions, to engage younger age groups and to help prepare them for school.
Junior Reef Doctors
In 2013, funded by the Julie Ghosh Memorial Scholarship Programme, we implemented ‘Junior Reef Doctors’ to provide extracurricular environmental lessons to the brightest school children from Ifaty. Julie (pictured below) volunteered with Reef Doctor in 2009 and was passionate about helping the people of Ifaty, especially the children. Sadly, Julie passed away in 2013 but her legacy lives on in the Junior Reef Doctor programme. Reef Doctor, the ‘Juniors’, and their parents are immensely grateful to the continued generous donations made by Julie’s father, Mr Biku Ghosh, to the Julie Ghosh Memorial Scholarship that makes our Junior Reef Doctors program possible and provides local children wonderful opportunities they would never have otherwise.
The scholarship is awarded to children between the ages of 8–12 who have performed the best in national school exams and who have an excellent school attendance rate. The main aims of the scholarship programme are:
To teach children about the environment and conservation.
To support the general education of the children by paying their school fees for one year and by providing educational materials every term.
To actively engage the children in the work of Reef Doctor in order for them to become conservation ambassadors, to help spread awareness, and to facilitate local community-NGO relations.
The programme aims to raise awareness of the issues affecting their marine ecosystems and to educate the children on how to use marine resources in a sustainable way for their future preservation. It also aims to inspire the children to continue their education and be proactive in conservation matters, now and in the future.
To date, working with the local school teachers, Reef Doctor has awarded scholarships to 15 students. The Junior Reef Doctors attend weekly sessions at the Reef Doctor base every Saturday morning. The theoretical and practical (interactive) lessons provided complement the government’s environmental education programme. We also run several field trips throughout the year including visits to other conservation NGOs in the area, whale watching excursions, and snorkelling trips. Every year the scholarships are re-awarded, providing the opportunity for other school children to participate. We also involve the Junior Reef Doctors in our awareness raising community days and fundraising events. Meet each of our Juniors here!
The Reef Doctor School: creating future leaders of positive change
In Ifaty, and indeed all across Madagascar, many parents cannot afford to send all of their children to school and many have to decide which of their children will get any kind of primary school education. Many schools in the area, like the primary school in Ifaty, are too small. In Ifaty, half the children of school going age attend school in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Teachers do their absolute best with the limited teacher training available. Furthermore, the vast majority of public primary schools employ an archaic teaching method because the tools and resources are not available to introduce different teaching styles into the classroom.
After witnessing the deterioration of the schooling system in our home village of Ifaty, Reef Doctor directors, Roderick Stein-Rostaing and Emma Gibbons, decided to initiate a programme for change, the new Reef Doctor school! This new initiative aims to deliver a high standard of education and skill development training to a select few of local children in order for them to become ambassadors and future leaders of their community. The new Reef Doctor school will provide the skills and tools for these children to become the access point for communities to learn about wider social issues such as climate change and declining fish stocks, which affect everyday lives. The vision is to provide a platform that empowers communities to make informed decisions about their future.
Based out of the home of Director Emma in Ifaty village, the Reef Doctor school is now attended by 25 children from the village. Four teachers have been employed to teach the children and they work closely with the Reef Doctor Education Department to improve teaching methods and deliver the children a broader programme of education in Science, Mathematics, French, Malagasy, English, Geography, History, Sport and of course, Environmental Studies. The school has been up and running since September 2016 and is going from strength to strength. In addition to classes in the Reef Doctor School, pupils also attend workshops at Reef Doctor and community events along with the Junior Reef Doctors.
This endeavour received a huge boost recently when a representative of CISCO, the Regional Department of Education in Toliara, visited the school. The school is now being registered with the government to include permission to teach classes to the level of high school diploma. A huge advantage of the visit and the registration of the school is that the school, once registered, will be eligible to receive assistance from a food programme, which will mean that the children will receive a nutritious lunch during their school day to fulfil their learning potential. The school is a testament to Roderick and Emma’s dedication to the community where they have resided for over a decade. They hope to provide the opportunity for children to receive an education that will help them to learn to investigate and question the world around them and ultimately understand enough about that world to make informed and educated decisions that improve their quality of life and the lives of those in their community.