Project
Madagascar

Education is the key to development for a better life!

ESSVA is going strong.....

Let me start by telling you all that as of July 2010 I’ll be leaving Madagascar to continue my next phase in life.  As you all might remember I talked a lot about opening a Restaurant here in Madagascar and continue my life here.  Well sometimes you talk too soon and your life expectancy changes and so does the future.  But you know with all the questions asked by your friends and family you sometimes have to disclose plans that you are working on without knowing 100% sure if you are going to execute them.  So this time it didn’t work out the way I wanted and I choose not to proceed with the option.  Furthermore at the age of 34-35 there are other options to take, other horizons to explore and proceed in a new career before ending up in my own business.

Why did I take this decision that changes all that I communicated before?  Well as read in my last report I had my first motorbike stolen, I split up with my girlfriend and it is just over three weeks that they stole my second motorbike.  With this last fact and the local instability of the government I think that, although Madagascar is a land of opportunity, for the moment they don’t want to be helped in rebuilding their country.  The ones that don’t want to be helped are, of course, the rich who actually govern.  With the youth you can see and feel the “energy” to make something of their life but they are blocked by the institute that doesn’t want rejuvenation.  I know that if you feel that there is a movement that wants to change you should continue, but if there are personal attacks (like my motorbike), I think it better if there is a new person that will take over from me.  Beside that, 3 years is a period that is ok and its time to broaden my horizon.

When I told the owner of the new to build restaurant, who is a friend of mine, that I changed my mind about staying in Madagascar, he wasn’t too amused.  He thought to have found in me the person who could assure a booming business and to create the place to be in Antsirabe.  He explained this as follows, I have the right education (Ecole Hôtelliere de Lausanne), the right attitude towards client satisfaction and I’m a good friend.  All together very flattering but I can’t make the investment necessary after loosing 5000 € with the two motorbikes.  Beside the monetary loss I think that it is too early for me to begin a project like this without a fixed backup in case the business doesn’t start right away.  So if anybody knows a job opening don’t hesitate to contact me.

In regards too the school we had a turbulent departure this year.  A departure that I could not have foreseen and one I did not wish for my successor to experience (I like the method of learning by means of cold shower but there are limits).  During the last stay of Clara in July we organized everything for the upcoming year.  We made a choice of all the teachers, reworked part of the courses and interviewed some potential candidates to assure the subjects.  Perhaps we made a mistake to hire a teacher that was part of a couple, because two days before the start of the school we were confronted by our kitchen chef.  He wanted to negotiate his salary, because he thought that it did not represent his artisticall capabilities of the job.  So he made us two propositions for us to choose out of, sorry for him but we took option number three:

First of all he proposed us to let him commercialize the school by means of starting a bakery to supply Antsirabe.  In this proposition all the benefits, after subtraction of fixed cost would be for him.  We tried to explain to him that as a school we will not enter into commercial activity.  First of all it is not professional towards our competitors and secondly we are a school.  So this option was a no go!! 

Secondly if we didn’t accept the first option he made us a salary proposal based on the salary that we pay the teacher that come here for one or two subject and are paid by the hour.  So he took their salary and multiplied this by 160 hours per month.  Here again we tried to explain that there is not a single enterprise that will calculate a salary on this basis.  Also as a fulltime worker you have other advantages that the others don’t have (like a thirteen’s month, social security and so on……).  No comprehension on his side?

Third option, the one that we proposed was the only one left over.  He had no choice but to accept but that meant that his contract would not be prolonged.  And that we had to search for a new kitchen chef.

So there we had the first problem that shook the foundations of my successor in taking the job (understandably).  Unfortunately it wasn’t over after this, there were more who followed.  To start in chronological order after the kitchen chef came his wife.  She had the politeness to phone us not two days before but 15 minutes before her course.  Reason given was that she could not support a school that didn’t understand/supported her husband in his work.  If you ask me they tried to corner us and force us too come back at our decision.  In that case they didn’t take the time to get to know me or Clara very well! 

After all this we thought all was over and after this bumpy start a smooth continuance.  WRONG!!!  This is when another chapter, far worse, started to brew within our section!  If I just go back a couple of months to explain the story you will understand better how we got to this point and you will see that there are teachers that are acting as little kids.  I talked before that Clara and I worked on the program for this year at the end of July.  Here we appointed the teachers to the different subjects and eliminated others.  To begin we decided that we no longer want teachers coming from ANTANANARIVO because they will never respect our schedule.  Our section is the only one that works with a schedule based on a whole school year, without exception.  The reason behind this is that we would like have discipline.  Teachers from ANTANANARIVO will never comply with this.  For them it isn’t beneficiary to come to Antsirabe for two hours a week (their problem not ours).  One in particular was not happy with this decision.  Why? Because this decision deprived him of the possibility to be a tutor for the student business plan and this will cause him to loose income.  This income was substantial for him due to the fact that he made false declarations and got paid for work not done (revenue between 250 and 300 €).  Where did this lead us?  Well it leads us to the organization of a strike by the second year students.  How come it that those students start to organize a strike without knowing some facts, false or true, because behind all strikes there are some masterminds!  The director of education took the opportunity to intervene when we started to hear of these rumors.  He talked to them for about 2 hours and came back with the results that where quite “shocking” but not at all new.  The two professors that don’t intervene anymore turned the heads of the students to become unpleased with education received.  Our former kitchen chef told them that he would return to give all the theoretical courses and the other asked the students to assure his return.  The director of education explained that it wasn’t our fault that the year didn’t start as it should but that there are teachers that promised to teach let us fall 2 days before.  The students understood the situation that we were confronted with and the calm returned, with a comprehension towards our resolutions.

If we look at the school in general they start to sense the changes that are taking place and also start seeing the necessity of it.  This doesn’t mean that they are ready to accept, but the first step is made.  I think that it will be another long yellow brick road ahead of us but in the end we reach our dreams for the development of the school.  With all the external help that we are receiving it will be our obligation to arrive at our goal.  There will always be a couple of elements (people) that are not stable and need close attention but if we arrive to take them up in a sort of regulated system they can continue without a lot of problems. 

As of the beginning of November I’m teaching the second year a two subject due to the absence of a teacher who can assure this.  This means that I have to stay until the end of the school year and if in the meantime I find a replacement I need to continue to give him the proper formation.  Due to this I had to give up one day of golf because the day that I teach is the Saturday morning.

Lots of love and I’ll be home for Christmas………