Putting Theory into Practice in Madagascar

Publication Date: 
June 06, 2016

During his long and faithful lifetime of working for, and with, marginalized youth, Saint John “Don” Bosco emphasized the notion of “practicing what’s been taught.” Today in Madagascar, 29 students attending the Salesian Vocational Training Center in the capital city of Antananarivo are doing just that -- further strengthening the knowledge and skills they need to enter the workforce and become self-sufficient adults. 

Such practical training is crucial for several reasons. In a country where 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25 -- and where almost 6 million youth live in dire poverty -- Madagascar’s future depends upon opportunities for youth to learn marketable skills. Yet, far too many vocational centers lack the resources to purchase adequate tools, machinery and equipment that students need to put their classroom learning into practice. This means that, even with a professional degree, graduates lack the competencies employers seek when making hiring decisions. And the companies themselves suffer from a shortage of skilled labor.

For these reasons, the Salesians partnered with other humanitarian organizations and initiated a new, innovative program. The goal is to modernize vocational training in Madagascar’s construction and civil engineering sector through targeted apprenticeships that improve the match between available jobs, and the skilled labor to fill them.

As a result of the collaboration, students like 19 year old Tojoniaina -- and his fellow classmates at the Vocational Training Center -- are building an addition to a clerical building in the capitol. Together, they read blueprints, raise walls and ceilings, install windows and doors, and more. They also learn to work under the direction of a foreman, meet deadlines, and achieve quality standards.

“This is true, real-world experience,” says Roger Rabenoelson, their teacher in the construction program. “It will be invaluable to them in securing a job once they graduate.”

Not long ago, Tojoniaina couldn’t dream of getting a job. Because his parents could not afford to pay for it, he dropped out of primary school and instead spent years helping his rural grandparents with chores and other needs. Now, thanks to targeted recruitment efforts conducted by Salesian missionaries in highly disadvantaged areas, he is enrolled in an accelerated one-year program and eagerly anticipates his first professional opportunity.

“Tojoniaina is well poised to change the trajectory of his future,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “With a well-paid job in construction, he will not only secure stable employment -- but he can also directly contribute to the modernization and growth of his country.”

In a country where nearly 30% of children drop out of primary school, apprenticeships like these are crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty and creating new opportunities for youth. Bolstered by stories like Tojoniaina’s, our Salesian missionaries are committed to expanding these opportunities in the more than 130 countries in which we serve.

Through our global vocational, technical and professional training, our mission transforms impoverished youth into dignified, productive adults. What’s your mission? 

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