Project Sekoly Construction of a Primary School

Project location: MADAGASCAR, Anosy Region
Project start date: January 2009 - Project end date: October 2009
Project number: 2008-30
Beneficiary: AZAFADY

Final Report, March 2010.

Project background

There is a demonstrable need for resources at all levels of the Malagasy educational system. In rural areas the majority of the population has little or no access to even basic levels of formal education. One of the challenges of the government's Madagascar Action Plan (MAP) 2007-2012 is to create a successful primary education system by "increasing school capacities especially in vulnerable zones, through the development of school infrastructures, the training and the recruitment of new teachers."
In this project Azafady worked in collaboration with the education authority CISCO in responding to direct community requests from the village of Volobe Sud in the provision of a fully furnished school building, teacher's house, closed water source and latrine. The provision of school infrastructure is a priority outlined in the Mahatalaky Communal Development Plan 2004, within which Volobe Sud is a priority village as identified by CISCO.
Situated in the remote mountains of Mahatalaky over 60km from Fort Dauphin, Volobe Sud is a community made up of 4 outlying hamlets. The community is a 3 hour walk from the nearest road, and make a living predominantly from subsistence agriculture. The village has no health centre or electricity and few safe water sources, and has never had a state-provided school building, relying instead on a 2 room shack built over 40 years ago, now inaccessible and in a state of extreme disrepair. The only 2 health centres are in the comune hub Mahatalaky over 20km away which serve a population of over 27,000, placing tremendous pressure on already limited resources.
The project was led by 2 members of Azafady's construction team and the coordinator of Azafady's international volunteer schemes.This report details final project activities realised between September - December 2009.

2. Implementation

Project activities were guided by Azafady's experienced technicians who ensure that all designs are highly cost efficient, robust and easy to maintain. Structures follow those of the traditional design of buildings in the region - a timber frame of eucalyptus, plank walls with a stone and concrete foundation, and a corrugated iron roof - with all tools and materials locally and sustainably sourced. The contribution in kind by the beneficiaries is central to all of Azafady's projects, keeping the budget to a minimum and giving a strong sense of ownership and thus supporting the sustainability of each initiative. Within this project the local community was responsible for providing the rock and sand, and determining the overall work plan. In terms of labour, they assisted in the digging of the latrine pit, and the carrying of materials the significant distance to the latrine site - a three hour walk from the nearest road. Construction activities were as follows: 

The permanent school latrine was constructed with separate cubicles for boys and girls in line with internationally-recognised good practice, and this, combined with provision of a safe water source is a proven factor in increasing attendance of girls in formal education (UNICEF 2007). With over 40% of children currently of school age being female, it is hoped this project will reduce the disparity of gender in education.
Guidelines issued by the WHO formed the basis for the construction of the latrine. The design incorporated 2 concrete lined pits to be used one after the other, which are sealed in turn once filled and left for two years, then emptied when they are pathogen-free.The construction process was as follows:
• Digging pit 2m x 3m x 2.5m
• Constructing 500 breeze blocks using sand-cement mix and a block mould
• Lining walls of pit and creating a division down the middle of the pit using the blocks to make two chambers
• Chiselling pegs and holes onto the Eucalyptus posts and joists of the cubicle frame
• Constructing metal scaffold to support the concrete floor
• Constructing concrete floor with 2 defecation points (one for girls and one for boys) and ventilation and access point
• Erecting cubicle framework from cement bocks and concrete
• Fitting corrugated iron roof
• Fitting ventilation chimneys and lid to access shaft
• Constructing and fitting of cubicle doors
• Painting trimmings

School Teacher's house
• Clearing and levelling the land on the site where the house was to stand
• Chiselling pegs onto the top of the timber posts and chiselling corresponding holes into timber crossbeams so as to make the traditional joints for the building frame, roof apexes, support beams, windows and doors
• Digging of foundations (50cm wide x 50cm deep) around the 4 sides of the building and digging of 1m deep holes for each of the posts
• Assembling the frame, at first jigsaw-fashion on the ground, before finally erecting it one side at a time on site
• Filling the foundation with rock and cementing between them using a mixture of sand and cement before covering the whole foundation in a cement/sand finish
• Constructing the walls out of tongue-and-groove planks
• Filling the floor with closely spaced rock and cementing between them, before covering the floor in a cement/sand layer and finally a cement skim
• Constructing the window and door frames and fitting in place
• Constructing doors and window shutters from tongue-and-groove planks and fitting to the frames
• Fitting of corrugated iron roof
• Painting of walls, doors, windows and trimmings


Replacing the temporary well pump

Following the arrival of the Canzee pumps in September 2009, the Azafady construction team were able to replace the temporary water pump with a permanent Canzee pump. These pumps are ideal for use in isolated and impoverished communities as they are robust, easy to use and easy to maintain. Community members were trained in the safe use and maintenance of the pump, which will ensure the ongoing safety and cleanliness of the water supply to the people of Volobe Sud.

3. Community Mapping
In October 2009, Participants on Azafady's international volunteer schemes undertook community mapping in Volobe Sud, with the following results:

Health and sanitation

Apart from the latrine built for the school, there are no latrines in Volube Sud, and adults defecate in public spaces. However, during the community mapping exercise, many adults stated that they would use latrines if they were available.
The Chef de fokontany stated that as many as 5 in every 10 children die before their fifth birthday, predominantly from malaria. Concerns were also raised over malnutrition-related illnesses.

The community expressed increased difficulties in generating sufficient crops to survive due to the climatic changes and associated lack of predictability in rainfall patterns. Deforestation was recognised as an issue through the observation that green spaces and forests were rapidly disappearing. Concerns were raised about the government's establishment of a protected area in forests currently actively used by the local community as a means of generating an income, when no apparent alternatives existed.

4. Challenges

In May 2009, the community of Volobe Sud was impacted by both tropical cyclones and ongoing drought, resulting in a food security crisis that prompted an international response; Azafady were chosen to partner the World Food Programme in distributing emergency food aid in the Anosy region, where hundreds of thousands of children were at risk of malnutrition and disease. Fears over political instability also had the effect of lowering volunteer numbers on Azafady's international volunteer schemes; volunteers are instrumental to Project Sekoly activities, allowing project costs to be greatly reduced through use of their labour and facilitating a two-way cultural exchange with villagers. These lowered numbers necessitated a redistribution of project activities over the course of a year; having initiated preparations in January and completed construction of a school and closed water source in July, Azafady returned to Volobe Sud in September to construct a latrine, the school teacher's house and to replace the temporary well pump for the closed water source. The need to expand the project's time frame served to increase certain costs, in particular those associated with the increased number of volunteer schemes required to complete the work, and political problems had the effect of increasing difficulty in obtaining materials, such as cement, that were sourced from the capital city Antananarivo. These difficulties were furthered through delay in the transfer of funds, though fluctuating exchange rates over the course of the project period ultimately had the beneficial effect of absorbing part of the additional costs incurred, and all remaining costs were able to be met in full by Azafady.

5. Future action
Azafady is currently seeking funds to continue working in Volobe Sud on the promotion of fuel-efficient stoves and cultivation of Moringa oleifera, a hardy and highly nutritious tree suited to growth in dry sandy soils.
The construction of fuel-efficient stoves will feed directly into regional conservation efforts, requiring up to 75% less firewood, thereby reducing deforestation, soil erosion and desertification. The respiratory health of women and children will be improved through the reduction in air pollution and smoke inhalation associated with traditional stoves, and it is anticipated that the risk of assault or injury for women will be reduced with the decreased distance covered in respect of walking to collect firewood.
In addition, the use of improved stoves will reduce the time spent by women and children obtaining firewood, allowing for more time to be spent in education or income generating activity; the use of these stoves further supports the empowerment of women by involving them in household energy decisions, thereby promoting gender equality.
Moringa oleifera is a very fast growing (3-4m per year), drought-resistant tree which can be grown in poor soils. All components of the tree are edible and the plant is extremely nutritious, being a rich source of protein and micronutrients (Vitamins C & A, calcium, potassium, iron) that are severely lacking in the daily diet of southeast Madagascar's rural poor. Promotion of the cultivation of Moringa oliefera is anticipated to reduce rates of malnutrition whilst simultaneously providing a sustainable alternative source of firewood to reduce pressure on protected and community managed forest fragments
Further to the reduced activity of children defecating in public areas through increased knowledge, behavior change and provision of physical sanitation infrastructure, Azafady are hopeful that provision of the latrine in conjunction with sanitation education in the school will help reduce general public defecation in open spaces - by both providing means of doing so and fostering motivation. Azafady hope to be financially and logistically in a position to respond to such demand for further sanitation infrastucture as may develop locally.

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