Milestones are worth celebrating. Last year, we saw our first Grade 12 students at the Anosibe Community and Learning Centre (CLC) complete 12 years of schooling and successfully pass the Baccalaureate national exam. We were ready to party and booked our tickets with building anticipation.
The day was set, the plans were made and staff and students alike were “cooking something up”, as Senior Supervising Teacher Ben told us. This was our team’s primary reason for making the voyage some 8000kms across the Indian Ocean to be ‘in the room’ and join our congratulations with the many others crowding the auditorium.
It was particularly special for a few of us who had been long-term supporters of the project, involved from the very beginning. When CLC Anosibe was established, there was opportunity to sponsor individual children as they commenced their education in Kindergarten. Now 12 years on, and many hours of study and commitment later, these students were standing in front of us, certificates of completion in their hands and the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen on their faces. It was a real Cinderella story.
Sadly, through no fault of their own, some were unable to also receive their graduating certificate. Corruption within the national education process forced the majority of students throughout Antananarivo to be disqualified from passing the exam. Obviously, this was a devasting blow. The good news is that three of our students who were affected, have decided to re-sit the exam this year and try again. We salute their resilience, in the face of discriminate hardship.
Even so, the day was a real celebration. Everyone came dressed in true Malagasy style, with an array of colour and flair that assaulted the senses in the best possible way. Kids could hardly contain their excitement as they waited to present songs, dances and dramas, diligently rehearsed to honour the Australians and respected guests. We felt duly humbled to remember that we were representing all those who had gone before us and those who stand with us now, in the spirit of partnership. To say we were touched is an understatement. The gratitude of the beneficiaries was contagious and we couldn’t help being grateful right alongside them as they expressed their genuine joy on the platform.
But what’s a party without food? Once the formal celebrations concluded, we were invited to lunch in one of the classrooms with key dignitaries and valued team who had now become our friends. The canteen served traditional Malagasy cuisine, and plenty of it, and the table continued to buzz with lively conversation.
Everyone remembered to save room for dessert. A large slab cake that sat alone in the corner now had guests and Grade 12 students gathered around it to honour the moment and pray. Students were served first (who could have deserved it more!) and even after everyone had a generous piece, spare cake along with left-over food went to good homes later on.
Years in the making, weeks in the planning and hours in the executing, and we did it. They did it. The CLCs, the teachers, the students and their families are the real heroes of this story. We thank every single donor, past, present and future because this was a win we all celebrated together.