Back in January, we broke ground on the most exciting project of my year with Azafady in Madagascar: Soanierana CEG. A two-room brick and concrete school building, it would add capacity to an overcrowded middle school attended by around 560 students. With just 4 classrooms available before we started, most students were receiving just half a day’s schooling, far from enough in the crucial years leading up to high school and the Baccalaureate exam. It was an extremely important project for Azafady as our first in that community, for the children and their education, and for me personally, as I saw it from start to finish.
In total construction took around 5 months. Doesn’t sound particularly quick? Azafady’s approach isn’t about speed. We don’t use power tools or vast teams of construction professionals from out of town. Instead we have a small core team of highly-trained veterans, international volunteers from our Pioneer and short-term schemes, and labourers from nearby villages, who learn valuable construction skills whilst earning a wage1. The local community was involved with the project every step of the way, initially inviting us to build the school, providing some of the materials for the build, and attending the opening ceremony when all was finished. Nor do we neglect any aspect – in addition to the building, we built a new latrine block, a rainwater harvesting system for hand-washing, and fully kitted out both classrooms with desks, benches and blackboards.
A time-lapse video showing the construction of the school, using photos taken from a fixed point plus a little magic from Conor Friel.
On July 22nd, I attended the inauguration ceremony along with other representatives from Azafady, visiting dignitaries, teachers and pupils. We officially handed over the keys to the school, toured the classrooms and facilities, and had a great ceremony to mark the occasion. It was a very proud day for me, not only as it marked the completion of my favourite project here, but also as I was representing the fantastic international Pioneer volunteers who helped to build the school. Well done everyone!
Here are just a few photos from the finished school:
- We also run several projects at once, so sometimes our core team or volunteers were elsewhere