“Getting a CEPE is a very big deal for everybody. Nobody in their village ever got a CEPE so far”, our friend Dr. Ihanta told us on Skype. “Eight of our students from our Fiadanana school took the exam. They had been preparing for weeks every day with their teacher. Seven of our Students passed the exam, while from other village schools only 30% to 50% of the students did so well.”In Madagascar a CEPE is a Certificat d'etudes primaires élémentaires (or Certificate of Primary Studies). A nation-wide standardized test, it can be awarded after attending five years of primary education. Students that don't pass either leave school without a CEPE or may try again after repeating the year in school. Zahana’s school in Fiadanana is now 5 years old and these are our first students who qualified to take the CEPE. Established as private schools, Zahana has more educational freedom in choosing a culturally appropriate curriculum, but our children do qualify to take an external exam for the CEPE. Successfully passing the CEPE exam is a prerequisite to enroll in secondary education. In Madagascar the CEPE - a milestone in a child’s life. It is a family affair and is at least as important as getting a high school diploma in the USA. Parents and grandparents accompany their children, who can range from 8 to 16 years of age, to the exam, often far away from home. They buy them a special auspicious lunch (something village children never get) and wait outside rooting for them the entire time. If they pass, they get gifts and in villages their diploma often gets framed, with glass, and hung in a prominent spot in the home.Our students had to walk for two hours with their families to Bevato, the district’s administrative center and sit in a strange new building they had never been in before. While you might wonder why a bottle of Coke is proudly held up like a trophy, this is most likely their only soda this year and something very special. If you count the bottles in the photos, you can see bottles: five of the children and their teacher to the left (who got the same rewards too).
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