The power of young educators and their relationships with parents and students
"PJL Educator Ravaka is wonderful to me and my family; she is kind, a role model in the community, and is non-discriminatory. Thank you PJL Educator, Ravaka" - Student, Maneva
In 2016, Projet Jeune Leader began a new journey: expanding our program to middle schools in rural areas. Among our first rural partner communities was Maneva, a small village tucked into the mountains on a long dirt road off the national highway. There is not yet electricity in this small town, and villagers still fetch their water from wells and rivers. However, Maneva does have a middle school that serves 300 students - the children of local farmers, brickmakers, and charcoal sellers.
For the 2020-2021 school year, Ravaka has taken up the PJL educator responsibilities at Maneva middle school, living and working in the small town full-time. Like all PJL educators, Ravaka is a special young person. She not only gets along with her students, but also their parents, who put their complete trust in her to help raise their children.
With her petite size, Ravaka looks very much like her 8th grade students – the only thing that distinguishes her is a black Projet Jeune Leader t-shirt. Soft-spoken, kind, easy-going – Ravaka leads her courses true to her personality. And that is enough for her students to listen attentively and participate enthusiastically during their weekly lessons with her.
Ravaka works exclusively in the middle school, but her presence and role in the community is just as important. Like other small, rural communities, everyone in town knows the PJL educator. When she leaves her house each morning, Ravaka is happily greeted by everyone she passes on the road. Even toddlers, who are just learning to talk, call out her name. When there is a community meeting, Ravaka is sure to be invited. Sellers – who know she teaches their children – will insist on giving her a discount when she shops at their stands.
"We parents are grateful for the presence of Projet Jeune Leader and we encourage our children to keep learning with you. Thank you, PJL Educator, for your ongoing support to students and to parents" – Parent, Maneva
It is heartening to know that most parents put their complete trust in Ravaka. There are even parents that come to school or her house to ask advice about their children. Many feel that the PJL educator makes a difference in their children’s lives. One of Ravaka’s favorite stories is from a mother, who called Ravaka over to thank her for the changes in her son. The mother said that before, the son was very argumentative and refused to help at home. But now, he is happy to help with chores after learning about gender stereotypes from the PJL educator: that there is no such thing as only women’s or only men’s work.
Projet Jeune Leader has long recognized the power of engaging and connecting with parents. Since 2016, PJL staff have led workshops to help them communicate better with their adolescent children about reproductive health. But this year we tried something new: PJL educators, not staff, led the workshops in their schools.
More than 30 parents attended Ravaka’s first workshop. All actively participated during the day-long course. One could tell they fully respected and trusted Ravaka and her information, even though she is still a young adult. Mr. Juvence confirmed this is a post-training interview, saying: “When I came here, I saw that the leader was indeed young. But we are used to this, and we believe that this is not important. It is the value of what she teaches that is.”
Ravaka is one of the 50 young adult PJL educators who have a special ability to forge meaningful relationships with both students and their parents. And it is through these relationships and their work that PJL educators help to transform schools and communities to be healthier, happier places for adolescents to learn and live.