TASC Madagascar. A day for learning.
It was just another day in Fianarantsoa on our annual trip to Madagascar but the journey down from Tana had been long and slow the day before and we were knackered after the flight and hadn’t slept well.
Sam met us at the hotel with a packed agenda and her usual incredible energy and enthusiasm .With her trusty and amazing staff of Natalie, Siamsa and Hery along, we were off before we knew it to meet our 10 new University going young adults.
We never imagined a day like it to be honest. The room was cramped and awkward at first with a lot of shuffling and excited chatting going on and then after brief introductions a young man nervously stood up.
He introduced himself in broken English and explained that he was speaking on behalf of all the students in thanking us for our help. By the end of an hour they had all stood up excited to tell us their stories, all were of grinding poverty and a steely determination to get one of the 10 TASC Scholarships. They were studying in Fianarantsoa and Amsositra, a variety of subjects from pure Physics and Maths to Education, Chinese, Law and Social Science. They were all from very poor backgrounds with large families, some with no mothers or fathers and a very simple subsistence lifestyle. They had spent the summer herding goats and sheep or growing rice and vegetables.
They had passed their final high school exams but had no chance of going onto University.
The meeting rambled on but was very humbling and Stu explained how he had never managed to get to University but with a determination to succeed he was now the Mayor of a large city in the UK and I explained how my mother had left school at 14 years of age and always regretted not continuing with her education but became a nationally known artist and of course Bruce simply said he loved them. We were just finishing up when their spokesman again stood and in great embarrassment asked could we help even more as they needed computers for their school work and investigations for papers etc.
We took a break and returned to agree to a computer for each of them as a loan during their 3 years at University and also confirmed we would find the funds to fund them for all 3 years.
You could feel the relief and joy in the room for all of us. We were just about to leave and had left some cash for a small party for them as they were now all friends.
Even though they studied different courses they had set up a bi weekly meeting to support each other and share ideas or problems and sometimes food and books.
So that was that..more shuffling and just as we were to leave a brave young woman stopped us and again asked could they ask for just one other thing. The rainy season was about to start and many of them walked 10 miles to school and their books were getting wet and damaged and so they wondered if we could afford a raincoat for each of them. They are a simple inspiration and the future of Madagascar.
It costs €450 per student per year to go to University and that’s for tuition, books, food, simple lodging, transport but not the raincoats. We sorted that.