“How has your NGO dealt with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic?”
It’s a question that students at the University of Fianarantsoa asked my colleague Mihaja in 2021 as they studied how organizations build resilience in times of crisis and significant disruption. My colleagues and I have been asked this question again many times since, including this year. In 2022, the Covid-19 pandemic is still very present in Madagascar, continuing to affect the country's social, economic, and educational systems.
Our answer, in short:
The past two years have not been without their challenges at Projet Jeune Leader. Closed schools, sick colleagues and family members, and virtual meetings have become part of our daily lives. In response, we had to adapt and innovate to be able to advance our objectives.
Despite these challenges, we doubled down, used these disruptions to re-envision aspects of our work, and as an organization we are proud that Projet Jeune Leader actually grew and strengthened in 2021.
We strengthened our relationships with education officials at all levels, a core priority advanced by the partnership agreement we signed with the national Ministry of Education in December 2020.
At the local level, school principals have always been close partners, but we expanded our efforts to engage them in new ways to provide feedback, mentor our Educators, and support our engagement with teachers and parents. On a day-to-day basis, PJL Educators increasingly invite teachers and principals to attend their CSE classes so that they can gain a better understanding of what the Educators do. Overwhelmingly, teachers and principals leave those classes with glowing feedback and congratulations—and we’ve seen them become increasingly engaged with our Educators and our programs thereafter.
In October and November 2021, along with Hanitra—our Regional Technical Manager in the Vakinankaratra region—I had the honor of bringing representatives from the national Ministry of Education on a field visit. We were thrilled to show them our work in action by inviting them to shadow our Educator at Behenjy middle school. They seemed equally enthused. They repeatedly voiced their admiration to the PJL Educator and noted how impressed they were by her professionalism, maturity, and skills. That visit has since opened many collaborations with the Ministry to envision how to scale-up CSE in Madagascar (a topic for another post!).
Every year since our founding, PJL has added new partner schools at the start of the school year. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we were able to maintain the trend in 2021.
We kicked off the new school year in September 2021 with 50 partner public middle schools in Vakinankaratra, Amoron’i Mania, and Matsiatra Ambony regions—including five new partner schools. A few weeks later, we were able to add our 51st school and 56th PJL Educator in the community of Antanetibe. In total, this brings our reach to 29,240 adolescents this school year. As part of our commitment to bringing high quality CSE to every adolescent, all of our new partner schools are located in rural, hard-to-reach communities.
Finally, 2021 marked another important milestone: the evolution of our organization from the “Association Lead Santé” into the NGO Projet Jeune Leader.
This milestone may be a formality, but it represents a major step in Projet Jeune Leader’s growth since our founding. It was the result of lengthy procedures and endless patience endured by our Human Resources and Operations Director Sophie, who had the honor of ultimately presenting our official Malagasy NGO registration certificate to the team. This formal status will open new opportunities and avenues for growth to take us into the next year and beyond!