Education is the key to development for a better life!

Life in

Part I


Now that my journey and first impression have come to an end I can start writing on my daily life here in Madagascar.  As I already wrote in my former story life here is reasonably cheap, although I can still not get used to the large amounts of money. This especially because they still speak in the former currency.  It is like we used to do, and some still do with the Euro.  Only it is not twice as much but five times the current value (and its all large numbers).  But still I get around on a daily basis with about 30.000 Ar (€ 12), this means that I eat at restaurants twice a day, including beverages, and some other daily expenses. 


As I ended my last episode I briefly introduced or mentioned Clara Blanc. To continue she is the one responsible for the project, because she works for both organisations that helped set up the school (as a whole) and the hotel part in particular.  Just to remind the reader the two organisations are: Fondation Avenir Madagascar (FAM) and EHL-smile.  The later was just involved in setting up the guidelines and finding some funds and material for the initial miss en place of the building and educational material (of course all donated by EHL).  Now that all that is in place we solely work with the FAM.  They are here from the beginning and support the school and students by paying half of the education fees for all students.  Beside that they also pay the salaries for the teachers.  When Clara arrived at the school she had mixed feelings about the finishing.  Part was well organised and the initial idea was great but it did not feel like a finished product.  Furthermore if you don’t stay next to the Malagasy the finished product is not of the expected quality and sometimes does not even come close to what you ordered.  So in the end we started to change and or adjust the decoration and some of the furniture in the rooms.  We made several trips to Tana to look for the right material and decoration.  We needed two desks and chairs in the room.  We found a shop that is specialised in “palissandre” wood furniture but in the end to expensive.  Then someone told us that towards Ambositra (main road to the south) we could find a factory owned by a Mauritian who started to create furniture next to his export products.  We went there to see what he makes and what it would cost us.  We had a very pleasant conversation and in the end we came to an accord.  All the furniture is made out of the leftover pieces of “palissandre” that he can not use anymore.  We were very that we found him in the end because if we look at price and quality we found the best.  We ordered the following items:

2 desks for the room; 2 chairs to go with the desk; 2 large chairs for the room; a garden set (couch, 2 large chairs and a low table); 2 shelves for the bar; 20 meters of “plainthe”; and a coat hanger.

all this for the price of 1.403.500 Ariary (€ 560), while in Tana one desk for the room would be 1.000.000 Ariary (€ 400). 

After this we came into contact with a former student who is now trying to go to Europe to get a job in Milan with the cruise ships that travel the Mediterranean.  To urn some money for his travel to Italy and to have some pocket money he sells his artwork.  He made two painting for the restaurant, which are a mixture of local art and what also incorporates the name.  Our Hotel – restaurant is called “Le Masoandro” that if translated from the Malagasy means the sun.  Therefore the two paintings are to heads, one male and one female.  After this marvellous job I asked him to repaint my room because it was becoming a little mush.  I gave him some guidelines on what I would like to see as finished but furthermore I told him that he was the artist.  We made a choice of colours (bathroom turquoise and room bright yellow with brown) and he did the rest.  Well the finished product is really incredible not only the colour selection but also the artwork that he painted on the wall.  All this he did for a mere 500.000 Ariary (€ 200) this include also all the material.  I could say that the only problem is that I can’t take his artwork home when I leave because it is painted directly on the wall.  But when I visited the Mauritian again to collect some of the items and also order some new (ideas that Jeff and I have came up with) he showed me some woodcarving work (quality) that is done by a local who he has recently employed.  So I’m going to ask him to reproduce the painting in wood. 


The school has just started its regular program now that all students have had four weeks of intensive French to get “everybody” up to a certain level.  For us it means that we as hotel and restaurant are fully operational.  We are open to the public and there is already reasonable interest.  If we can continue like this and have people come in to eat and sleep we might be able to run our department independently.  This is of course our final objective.  It would be nice if we can get a minimum of three to four modules here in the school that can operate independently and perhaps even generate enough funds to support the entire school.  But this will be something for the future.


We have started with the new way of accounting and although the old system was not too bad there was a lot of noise in the different tables that made it impossible to adjust them for an analytical evaluation.  While looking through the old archives (on the computer) and talking to the two persons responsible for the whole operation we created a plan for this year and the upcoming.  We have to attack it in two parts because we can’t change the accounting budget that is already in place for 2007-2008.  This part we have to cleanup in March – April.  When all is done I think we have a reasonable accounting that can be supported by the ONG who is paying for the moment 70% of all the costs running the school. 


But by helping them and supporting all this, to get all the right things in the right place, I think that I have to prolong my stay here in Madagascar for at least another year (end 2009).  And this does not only apply to the accounting part but also the school.  I think that it is a good thing to have a Vazah on the sidelines to support and guide the whole team here.  I hope therefore that I will find someone to replace me before the end of this school year.  For the moment I have to find three locals to make the team complete.  One for me and two for the other two Vazah’s that still work for us.


A good thing now here in Madagascar is the effort of the government to change the hotel industry and put it to an international standard.  They have understood that the way most of the hotels are operated now is below level and managed by people without a proper education.  Most of them have fled France because they could not get a business started or have trouble with the government and the other category are retired French.  The next article was published in the local news papers to inform the hoteliers:


Warning to the hotel industry by the Ministry of tourism

Warning to the hotel industry by the Ministry of tourism

The ministry of tourism gave a clear warning to the hotel industry by issuing a statement that the hotels not respecting the standards in the industry and not committed to the improvement of the quality of services will be subject to disciplinary actions and to the extreme the closing of the hotels.

It is, I believe, a long awaited reaction that should be treated with the most seriousness and strictness. Indeed, so many hotels do not operate in a professional manner; a lot of these hotels think that the business is all about giving a room with a bed, hot water, air conditioner and a T.V set. As a matter of fact, that is the basic of the hotel business product that must not even be mentioned when selling the product (it is as if you were selling a car and you are mentioning that it does have a steering wheel, a gear, a brake, a clutch, an accelerator and so on), the services and the value added products are what makes the difference and makes the experience for the guests enjoyable. The aim of the government is to make of the hotel and tourism industry the main provider of hard foreign currency to the economy, and to achieve that we must raise the quality (be it in term of products, services or human resources) and have a serious follow up so that the tourists and business travellers spend more while having at the same time the right ratio of quality/price. Madagascar is reputed to be an expensive destination, so let’s give the travellers the quality they are expecting.

However, this can only be possible with the help of the ministry; they should state clearly what are the standards of quality and services they are expecting from each hotel of each category. Furthermore, an independent and powerful board of quality control should be set up with the main task to periodically check the hotels (and not just every once in a while).


This information gives us the opportunity to really excel in our education here and make sure that we produce the best students here in Madagascar.  Another great development is that they start to get more and more strict on the hygiene policies.  The ministry of health is performing the checks and they are really using the international HACCP rules.  We are going to write to the ministry of health to ask them if they will use our school as a pilot to perform their checks and as a permanent learning object for their employers.  So every time they get new staff to send them to us not for education but to perform a check and therefore learn how too.


Yesterday 18-11-2007 we had our first major blackout due to reparations.  The whole city was without power between 06:10 and 14:45.  When the power was back online we suffered a minimum of 5 other short (10min) power cuts due to the heavy thunder and rainfall.  I hope that this will not be a sign for the rainy seasons that is on its way.


Just to inform all the people back home on my personal development and on things that I’m undertaking here the following:


No, No, No I have not yet engaged myself in a relationship if you were thinking that, although when going to the one and only nightclub here in Antsirabe you will have at least 5 to 10 girls interested in you.  This is not because you are a nice guy (because they don’t even know you yet) but mainly because you are white.  This means that you have money and can offer a better life in- or outside Madagascar.

No, I just wanted to inform all of you that I have started with my motorcycle exam because that is here in Madagascar the most pleasant form of travelling the country.  Together with one of the members of La FAM we bought a small motorcycle (200cc).  This will allow me for the moment to travel a bit around the country and it will for sure give me the opportunity during the winter to visit our 34 students all over the island during their internships.  Just for additional information I have bought a new helmet of European quality (a ported by Jeff when his motor came with the container) and at the end of this month I will descend to Tana to buy protective clothing for when I will travel around Madagascar.  I know that being on the other side of the equator means that it is almost summer (and hot 30°) and you are approaching winter what mean’s that it will get cold.  But I can assure you that summer here means rainy season and it has just started.  So from now on I can tell you that for almost every day of the week the mornings are (as usual) beautiful but during or after lunch we will have for a minimum of two to three hours rain, storm and thunder.  So I can not for the moment tell you which one I would prefer.

end part I 


Just a las word to all

A+, tot snel