A community school for all (children) in Fiarenana

by Zahana
The Christmas tree in the classroom
The Christmas tree in the classroom

Although it has been reported that Santa visits Hawaii last on the globe, he must have stopped in our villages in Madagascar already on December 23. The children were ready to celebrate with a Christmas tree in their classroom. The bags they so proudly display in the photo are filled with gifts from Santa.

Despite the excitement of Santa’s visit and the Christmas celebration at night, the children also took part in the community-wide tree planting effort, planting trees in their school yards.  Later at night, they celebrated with dancing and drumming and eating cake that had been baked in the solar box cooker, provided by Zahana.

We hope in case you are in the fortunate position of making end-of-year giving decisions, you may considers Zahana in Madagascar as well. And, if you have already done so, thank you very much for your support. We have currently half a dozen projects with GlobalGiving that make online donations a breeze.  While there are very nice ways and euphemisms out there to talk about donations, the bottom line still is that without your support, now for the seventh year, our work in Madagascar would not be possible.  

Ihanta, Jeannette and Markus

Bags from Santa
Bags from Santa
Seedlings for the school garden
Seedlings for the school garden
Students planting their trees
Students planting their trees
Cake baked in the school
Cake baked in the school's solar box cooker
Celebration in the evening
Celebration in the evening
Solar cooker infornt of our school
Solar cooker infornt of our school

The solar box cookers have been well accepted in the schools by the teachers and their students. The students like their solar box cookers a lot. They have been experimenting and cooking as many things as possible with he energy of the sun. It was exactly this opportunity to experiment and to eat the fruit of the research that made us want to use the solar cookers in the curriculum. Keeping time of the cooking process, measuring temperature, observing temperature over time, comparing temperature increases on full sun and overcast days, all require mathematical skills applied in a real life situation.

In the latest text message from the village, we received a little synopsis of the cooking efforts by the students. The students have been encouraged to keep notes:

Solar cooker: time to cook for
Rice: 2h30
Zebu: 2h30 (zebu is beef eaten in Madagascar)
Fish: 2h
Cassava: 2h30
Dried bean: 3h
Boiling water for coffee: 1h
Madeleine (small cake): 1h
Cassava cake: 2h

Note: they let the internal temperature in the cook box go up (pre-heat) to 100 degree C (216F) before the pot gets put in the solar cooker. (See out video how solar box cookers work)

Introducing solar cookers in the schools was a long-term project. The solar cookers have generated a lot of interest, because a solar cooker does not require firewood to make food for the children at the school and there is no smoke in the cooking process, as with traditional firewood stoves.

GlobalGiving's newest addition:  Microprojects. A Microproject is a clearly defined project, with a funding goal dedicated to accomplish this one task. Microprojects will be active on  GlobalGiving for a maximum of 90 days, or just until funded.

A Micoproject is part of our larger 'parent' projects with GlobalGiving, but gives us the flexibility to dedicate funds to a specific goal (with unique URL), such as
Send a student to secondary school for a $1 a day.

Explaining how it works
Explaining how it works
Sun on the reflector of the solar cooker
Sun on the reflector of the solar cooker


Certificate for Donne as best of his class
Certificate for Donne as best of his class

His parents chose wisely, when they named their son Donné, a French term, loosely translated as "given" or "gift".

Our Donné has been attending secondary school in the district seat of Bevato for over a year now. He was among the first seven students to ever pass the CEPE (see website) in his village. Thanks to a generous in-country donor, Donné and his brother received a scholarship to live in Bevato. There they live together in a rented house, and prepare their own food in the morning, so they have something to eat for breakfast, and take along as lunch to school. One of Zahana’s founder’s sister looks in on the boys every once in a while, but they're very much left to take care of themselves.

Not only have they mastered living on their own successfully, but Donné rose to the best of his class! We have attached his certificate of attendance that he proudly presented to Zahana. 

Donné has great plans for the future. His dream is to become a doctor, so he can help his community. He has been inspired by seeing Dr. Ihanta, Zahana’s founder, work in his community most of his life. Flattered by his compliment, she told him, that if he wants to better himself and not become a rice farmer as his ancestors before him:  “he should study hard”.

And the advice he took to heart. Indeed.

Donne with his proud father smiling in the back
Donne with his proud father smiling in the back


Inside the classroom
Inside the classroom

The new school year started this year in September. It is the seventh year for the school in Faidanana and the third for the school in Fiarenana.

Traditionally, the school was closed for the month of July, but this year was closed for the month of August. This was a result of the teachers strike in the rest of the country that delayed the national CEPE exam for a few weeks (see website and last years progress report). Since our teacher had been training students for the CEPE exam once again, he kept the school open until exam time. This year six students from our school participated in the nationwide CEPE exam, and three of them passed successfully. Our teacher and the students are very sad about this result, but we assured them, that they tried their best, and to remember that the national average failure rate is over 50%.

Note: We found an explanation of the Malagasy school system (which is based on a French model) on-line. Please note that in many rural areas there are no schools for the children to attend, despite the "right" to compulsory schooling.

Education is compulsory between 6 and 14 years of age. Primary education lasts for five years, leading to the Certificat d'Etudes primaires élémentaires (CEPE). Secondary education then covers seven years divided into a four-year first cycle and a three-year second cycle. On completion of the first cycle of secondary education in a general or technical Collège, pupils obtain the Brevet d'Etudes du premier Cycle (BEPC).

Inside Fiadanana
Inside Fiadanana's school - in the 7th year
Squash in the school garden
Squash in the school garden

The Tscherman Chef cooks something up again: a video with the community effort as ingredients.

Who says development work needs to be serious? (Although the issues sure still are.) Participatory development means to work together, if you spent 1 minute and 40 seconds watching the video on Youtube (and later on our project page), you'll find out. Please feel free to leave a comment on YouTube. 

And quick reminder: Bonus Day begins at 12:01 am Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday June 13, 2012. (That is one minute after midnight on June 13 in the New York time zone).

The formula is simple: your donations to Zahana will be matched at 50%. Last time GlobalGiving ran out of matching funds, please try early in the day if you want to super size you donation by 50% with the click of a mouse. There is a total of $75,000 in matching funds available. Once funds have been depleted, no more donations will be matched by GlobalGiving. Details

Best regards,




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Organization Information


Location: Antananarivo, Capital - Madagascar
Website: http:/​/​zahana.org
Project Leader:
Markus Faigle
Honolulu, HI United States

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