Education is the key to development for a better life!

Life goes on and we don't know where it ends......

I don’t know were to start?  It has been a long time but there aren’t a lot of things that have changed here in Madagascar.  We are still in the middle of a crisis and the country is governed by a transition government and by a president who lives in South Africa at the moment.  We can’t say that the president governs but he is trying to influence his party members all the time by messages and speeches.  These are delivered by prerecorded tapes or delivered through the internet (YouTube).  As mentioned by this particular internet site it is the first time that a political party uses this kind of media to get in touch with its supporters.  All his messages through the internet won’t reach the majority of the people due to the fact that internet is not available for everyone.  And even when we have internet it is to slow to watch the little movies easily.  We can’t really tell if this is of great influence but it is certainly disturbing the country to get going again!  And if the international community doesn’t get confidence in the country until the new elections, the country is going to be ruined.  The elections are now planned for April / May 2010, and I don’t see a possibility to how it will be forwarded to the end of 2009.  But with the pressure from the world it might be possible.  The things that start to “scare” me at the moment are the talks about new riots.  These are based on the fact that the students that are going to pass their BAC don’t know for what reason they are doing this since there is no work for nobody, furthermore as of September there will be no money to pay the salaries of the government.  For sure they will not sit and wait for the next payment to come.  America and the world bank have frozen all support for Madagascar.  In short riots are on the way and will be destructive for the progress of Madagascar.  There isn’t much to say but we will have to wait and see how it evolves.  I’ll keep you updated.

We recently had the meeting in Maputo where the 4 possible presidents signed an agreement on how to proceed with the country and its crisis.  The signed consensus is probably going to work but will remain the big question due to the fact that not all parties agree on it and therefore for me it rest a big farce.  The four “presidents” are all personalities that we don’t want for running this country.  It will again be a regime that is going to fill its own bank account.  So I’ll hope that during the 15 months of preparation for the national elections there are some new candidates that will present themselves.  If this will be the case we might find a way to get out of this political crisis.  But who knows, time will tell.

Time is telling us that this will return to the beginning of the year with riots and confrontation between the different groups and the armed forces.  The French embassy is keeping us informed about the places that if not necessary it is better to avoid.

To go back to ordinary life things go well here at school but there are big changes on the way and we have to see how the school is going to accept this.  Between March and July 2009 we have had two audits that took place here in the school.  One on the financial site and the other pedagogical, and the two have been “disastrous” for the people who were responsible until that moment.  If we look more closely at the finance part there has been “foul” play since de beginning and the person never wanted to adjust it.  She has been told and asked that we (FAM) would like to have clear figures to see how things are working and developing but we never got them.  For the financial part we have found a replacement who has directly recognized all the little foul plays and is working very hard now to make the accounting a bit more healthy so that in 1 to 2 years we can make clear and correct financial decisions.  For the pedagogical it will not be as easy but we will find a person that can take up this job and reorganize this department.  The one that we have now is not working at 100% so that is the first thing that must change if he wants to take the job.  Since he also works for the government he has some benefits that he might not want to loose.  If that is the case he can’t take the job.

We have found a new Chef de Filière that will take over from me as of September 2009.  She has a background in the hotel business (family hotel in Antsirabe) she enjoyed a tourism education in Paris, but there is still a lot that she has to learn in regards to managing a school and do the administrative work.  She is very motivated to take up the job so we have to grab our chance and try it for one year.  One thing that can be difficult with her is that she doesn’t have a strong physique but let’s hope that it is going to work out.  At the beginning of September we had a “shock” when she called me and told me that there might be a chance that she wouldn’t be able to take the job due to health reasons.  This was on the day that she was supposed to sign the contract and begin the weekend after.  I paid her a visit and we talked for an hour.  I told her that she had to wait for the medical results and on that we would make a decision if, what, when and how.  Luckily when the results came back it was less severe than what she told me in the beginning.  It will still be a long shot but I think that she can make it in the end (good thing that I’ll be around to make sure of that). 

Sometimes you don’t know why things in life go as they go, but the day after I met someone on the golf course that could be interested in taking the job as Chef de Filière.  He told me that he had enjoyed an education in the hospitality and was looking for something in the business.  I’ll still have not had the time to talk to him but perhaps he can doe something for the school in the future.  If it is not directly with us I can propose him to other organizations that would like to start a hotel school of their own.  Time will tell and of course the interview that I will have with him will make the future more clear. 

During her stay (last two weeks of July) Clara and I worked on the pedagogical program for the three years and made a couple of changes.  To begin with the most important change it is the fact that as of 2009-2010 we no longer use teachers from Tana.  We have found someone in Antsirabe who is taking over the course of Humane Recourses and beside that is giving a course on entrepreneurship. This later course will replace the course economy that we had before.  We thought it more important to have an idea on creating an enterprise than to have economy.  By the way for creating an enterprise you always have a bit of economy.

We also increased the number of hours that the students have languages.  For English it is three hours every week first, second and third year.  For the French lessons we doubled the hours in the third year making sure that we have more time to invest in writing skills regarding the motivation letter and a correctly written CV. 

Furthermore we increased the hours of the tourism course in the first year and took out the course of accounting.  The accounting that we took out will be partially replaced by the course of entrepreneurship in the third year.

The last change will be a test for the first year students.  I have found in collaboration with the Alliance Française a teacher that will give a theatrical course to open up the first year a bit.  This should in the end help to make the contact with the clients in the restaurant better and less forced or less shy.  Apart from this extrovert experience the course will also focus on improving the French language skills, because the course will be given in French.

Another positive development is the implementation of a computerized reservation system for the hotel (Fidelio) and an automated system for the restaurant (Micros).  Due to good contacts with the Carlton Hotel in Tana, where the organization is having its headquarters, the program is offered to us during the first year of exploitation.  The normal cost is around € 2000 per year.  After their proposition I had to tell them that due to a reorganization of the school, it would not be possible to pay for this.  In the end they offered the first year due to the fact that the INTH in Tana refused to work with them and they are starting to implement the program in quit a few hotels in Madagascar.  So in the end it will be an advantage for our students during their internship period.  If our filière keeps up its steady grow pattern as is does now, next year we need 10 students to pay for the system and with the other students we pay for the salaries of the professors.

My other task here in Madagascar concerning the restructuration of the school as a whole will be a real challenge.  I think that with the team that we have chosen, we will arrive to make the changes that we would like to make.  For the reorganization we changed the whole setup of the management team.  We took out the role of principal and created a board of Directors that will setout the guidelines for the work to be done.  The members of the Board are the external persons the principal and me.  With this team we’ll have weekly meetings with the DAF (director of finance and Human recourses) and the DE (director of learning) to have them explain their progress concerning the new program that will be implemented next year.  The changes that will take place are going to have an important impact on the way the school is governed for the future.  It will surely have a large impact on all the expenditures that we have now, and which can’t always be accounted for.  So if all goes well this will make the school financially healthy, without excluding a constant little financial aid as is normal for an educational establishment.  The second big change will be the restructuration of all that concerns the pedagogical aspect.  Here we really have to look at the big picture of how we want this to be in the future and what kind of students we would like to form for Madagascar. 

In April 2009 I have decided to start a “partnership” with the French NGO “Pachamama” who is researching the construction of a hotel school in Mananjary.  This partnership is based on the fact that we provide three students that have finished their education and who will receive an extra education in France during one year.  After this experience in France they will assure during some years the formation of the students at the hotel school in Mananjary. 

The selection of the three students has been as followed:

During a weekend we had the honor to receive a Michelin-star chef from Paris (Yannick Aleno from the Meurice) that was a member of the jury to select the three students.  The weekend was organized as follows.  On Saturday we had the whole group (10 students) present to prepare two courses for the jury.  At the end of this day half of the group was excluded of further participation.  During the Sunday the 5 that remained had to cook a complete meal for the jury.  To add a touch of quality to the choice, the students went out with the chef to buy the necessary ingredients on the market.  This gave an extra touch to the competence of the students to identify quality of product and assure a balanced plate.  To eliminate some of the pressure the students were given the menus well in advance to be able to prepare themselves.  If they wanted they could even try to prepare some of the dishes at home to become familiar with the preparation.  The selection wasn’t based on working under pression but to show what they had learned during their education.

If all goes well this whole project is going to be on the French television in the form of a documentary that will take about 55 min.  There we will follow the whole project from the beginning to the end.  This will be a good publicity for all participating partners, and may offer future developments!!

Till the next update.........