19 August 2013

Madagascar Children Prone to Life On the Streets

Antananarivo — Child poverty in Madagascar is reaching record highs with 82 per cent of children under 18 living in households that earn less than two euros a day, according to the United Nations. The situation for poor children has worsened since a military-backed coup ousted the democratically elected president Marc Ravalomanana in 2009.

This has led to more children living on the streets than ever before and a rise in prostitution among children. NGOs in the capital Antananarivo are stepping in to help vulnerable children get the services they need.

The NGO Manda is one such service that runs a centre in Antananarivo where dozens of children come to study everyday.

"These children are living in the streets alone or come from a destroyed family. They beg for money or they become pickpockets," said Hervé Rakotonandrana, a teacher with Manda.

While Manda provides shelter at its night centre for some children, there are still many more young people who have to sleep in the streets.

Manda offers courses in mathmatics, tourism, tailoring and crafts to help the broaden future job prospects for the children.

Elysé Mamisoa Andriamantemainatolojahahary lived on the streets as a child but did a course in tourism.

He now works as a co-ordinator at Manda and teaches drawing, dancing and singing classes.

"I like to spend time with the children to communicate and also act like a clown and play with them. That's why I am staying a bit with NGO Manda. I learned many things here," said Andriamantemainatolojahahary.

When the political crisis hit the tourism sector, he lost his job as a tour guide.

But he hasn't lost hope that he can one day return to working in tourism.

"I would like to find a good job to support my whole family and also help the NGO Manda," he said.

In another part of Antananarivo, a group of American and Malagasy thespians called Zara Aina work with children from poor areas to produce a theatre show.

Currently, participants are rehearsing a piece about a man who was born as an egg, which is based on a Malagasy folktale.

"We took Malagasy folktales because we are convinced that it's necessary that we value the Malagasy culture," said member of Zara Aina Dina Razafindrazaka. "And we are trying to make those children feel like they are the ambassadors or their own culture and the youth of Madagascar."

The piece culminated in a tour across the country last year, including rural areas where access to theatre is limited.

"We had magic moments, although it might be hard for the children to travel for hours and hours in the same bus, they had an amazing experience. They discovered themselves on stage, not really on stage, it was just on the floor," said Razafindrazaka.

The young performers discovered a passion for the stage and they are eager for more.

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