Flying to Madagascar was magical, with the call of beautiful beaches, magnificent mountain ranges and, of course, its people. As we drove through small towns we were entranced by the vibrancy of people clustering around open shop fronts purchasing meat, vegetables and spices. The countryside was splashed with colour where washing was laid out to dry on bushes, and the rivers and lakes were populated with bathers as very few can afford a privy or washing facilities in their home.
Most Madagascans speak Malagasy, with French the official language, so we were extremely privileged to have the former High Commissioner for Madagascar (and Mauritius, Comoros and Seychelles) in our company. Her Excellency Susan Coles, a fluent French speaker and a person well connected with the education authorities and passionate about literacy for all.
The African Children’s Stories program began in Madagascar through the auspices of the Australian High Commission in partnership with innovative Vision Valley School (VVS). The school was established in 2000 in the home of Gavin and Rhoda Jordaan with only three students. Today, it has grown to nearly 300 pupils from nursery age to Grade 12.
One of the exciting parts of our program is the launch of each collection. The VVS invited guests from the local community and surrounding schools. The students prepared dances with graceful movements, sophisticated costumes and mesmerising music. Cameras flashed as proud parents watched their children perform.
The Malagasy are a proud and happy people. As Jannah Estella Maminirina wrote,
‘Madagascar is a beautiful island and I love where I live, even though there are many challenges. I am proud of my island and I always will be!’