Mainstreaming sexuality education: A new partnership to bring CSE to Madagascar's most rural schools
In an ambitious new endeavor, Projet Jeune Leader (PJL) is spreading our expertise in sexuality education to a government teacher training institute, enabling tens of thousands more adolescents to have access to high-quality comprehensive sexuality education at school for the first time.
A Pioneering Partnership to Mainstream Sexuality Education in Madagascar
Through PJL’s new collaboration with the Haute Matsiatra region’s teacher training institute, the institute’s 2021-2023 cohort of 114 teacher-trainees are being deployed to the region’s most rural middle schools to deliver PJL’s model for comprehensive sexuality education.
Throughout their practicum year, teacher-trainees will teach their assigned subject (e.g., math, French, history, etc.) in addition to Projet Jeune Leader’s timetabled, gender-transformative comprehensive sexuality education course. When they are not teaching, trainees will provide a host of other services for students in alignment with PJL’s model: personalized counseling, healthcare referrals, extracurricular and enrichment activities, and programming for parents.
This pioneering partnership between our civil society organization and multiple levels and branches of the Ministry of Education is a significant step forward towards mainstreaming integrated and specialized educators delivering sexuality education. It’s a partnership unique not only to Madagascar, but around the world.
Throughout the next year, our team will be busy learning and adapting from this partnership, exploring how this model could be replicated across the country—improving the health, learning, and well-being of all Malagasy adolescents.
“This [partnership] marks the introduction of sexuality education into the public system… these teachers that are trained at the Regional Teacher Training Institute will be spread out across communities and schools to provide sexuality education to students.” – Téophil Rabenandrasana, Director General of Educational Establishments, National Ministry of Education
An Emergent Collaboration that Stuck
Since 2013, Projet Jeune Leader has forged an “advocacy by doing” approach—delivering a high quality, participatory, gender-transformative, and holistic sexuality education model that deeply resonates with communities.
Our approach has fostered positive word-of-mouth and created high demand for sexuality education. Over the years, we refined our model to be lean and low-cost so that it could be replicated in Madagascar’s resource-constrained context and reach adolescents in rural areas who need it most.
In early 2021, inspired by word-of-mouth about PJL Educators, the director of the regional teacher training institute of Haute Matsiatra region (the “Centre Régional de l’Institut National de Formation Pedagogique”, or CRINFP) approached us. He pitched an idea: could we collaborate to train the government teacher-trainees in Haute Matsiatra region to deliver sexuality education?
We knew from the get-go it would be an ambitious endeavor.
Existing teachers are commonly charged with teaching sexuality education worldwide, but it presents many challenges, including teachers’ conflicting personal values, lack of adequate training and support, and distributive injustice as teachers are expected to take on extra responsibility in their overburdened and underpaid roles.
Despite potential challenges, we viewed a partnership with the teacher-training institute as a promising strategy to upskill educators at the early stages of their professional career, building their capabilities, motivation, and opportunity to teach sexuality education. The partnership would also be founded on a relationship with the director of the training institute, someone who was ready to fully embrace Projet Jeune Leader’s strategies to train, equip, and support (not to mention, compensate) these specialized educators.
To begin delineating partner roles and responsibilities, we organized site visits to our existing partner schools for teacher training institute and national government officials to transparently demonstrate our approach and help them understand every aspect of our holistic program. We jointly discussed our curriculum, program components, and training approach and the evidence underpinning each. We began probing on issues of inclusion and sustainability to co-define a vision for what this partnership could look like, and what its impact could be.
Equipping Public Teacher-Trainees to Deliver Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Months of hard work later—built upon nearly a decade of building trusting partnerships and refining a high-impact, replicable model—we launched a new partnership between the Haute Matsiatra regional teacher training institute, the National Ministry of Education, and PJL to introduce a parallel version of our model during the 2022-2023 school year.
Teacher-trainees are teaching their assigned subject (e.g., math, history, etc.) in addition to delivering our CSE program, which includes:
Teaching PJL’s time-tabled, year-long sexuality education curriculum;
Leading weekly afterschool enrichment activities;
Offering confidential counseling sessions and medical referrals to students;
Leading workshops for parents, other teachers, school officials, and other community members.
"Thank you all, Mpanabe Jeune Leader, because the education you are doing is wonderful and will hopefully help us students." – Student of one of the teacher-trainees, called "Mpanabe Jeune Leader"
The teacher-trainees are delivering the same activities with the same tools as PJL’s Educators, which have been tested and adapted for rural, under-resourced contexts. In addition, PJL is collecting rigorous evaluation data throughout the year—helping to preserve the integrity and quality of the program and giving government partners insights into the effectiveness of the program. This will also provide PJL invaluable insights into the effectiveness of two similar but distinct approaches to comprehensive sexuality education delivery (by teachers versus by independently hired educators), which can inform future scale-up efforts in Madagascar and beyond.
Early feedback from community members show that the teacher-trainees have strong local support. Serving as CSE Educators—in addition to their regular teaching duties—has helped the teacher-trainees gain credibility in the eyes of fellow teachers and parents and gain the trust of students. These interpersonal relationships help them succeed in other parts of the job.
Paving the Way to Bring Comprehensive Sexuality Education to Every Malagasy Adolescent
The status quo of comprehensive sexuality education in most countries, particularly in the Global South, involves inserting piecemeal messages into existing subjects or handing teachers a curriculum that they are expected to navigate and teach. Misconceptions about the scope and purpose of comprehensive sexuality education are common, and programs often do not generate sufficient community and political support to expand or be sustained.
We’re pioneering a distinctly different approach—scaling up a holistic, evidence-based model that is integrated in and strengthens the public education system, and that generates strong community and political support to expand.
Through this novel civil society-government partnership and PJL’s existing school partnerships, 85% of public middle school students in Haute Matsiatra region are now receiving comprehensive sexuality education—a first for any region in the country. Importantly, the majority of these schools are in highly rural schools where needs are highest and services are scarcest.
“What motivates me to deliver the comprehensive sexuality education program is that the more students like me, the more they will like and be interested in the other subject that I teach. I know that when I lead the comprehensive sexuality education activities, they will admire me as a teacher and this will make them more motivated to learn in the other classes they have with me.” – Teacher-trainee, Haute Matsiatra
Our vision is to reach every young adolescent in Madagascar with comprehensive sexuality education. This milestone represents a significant step towards achieving that goal, with a lot of learning and growth still ahead. Stay connected with us via our newsletter and “Reimagining CSE” blog to follow along on our journey. Want to learn more or support our work? Contact us.
This work is supported with a “Stage 1” grant by the Fund for Innovation in Development and by the Government of Monaco’s Department of International Cooperation. We are grateful for their important investments in our work for development impact at scale in Madagascar.