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  • Writer's pictureLalaina Rafanomezantsoa

With parents, side-by-side, holistically supporting adolescents’ development

Three mothers stand at a blackboard smiling and holding up flipchart paper next to a smiling Projet Jeune Leader Educator.

As the Malagasy proverb says, « Toko telo mahamasa-nahandro » — it takes three raised stones to cook a meal. It’s an adage we take seriously in our own (non-culinary) partnerships-based work.

Parents are one of key partners. After all, we can’t help young people thrive through adolescence without parents’ investment in their kids’ wellbeing and education. That’s why Projet Jeune Leader runs special workshops with and for students’ parents. Our goal is to integrate them in our approach to supporting adolescents through this crucial life period. We also know that being a parent to a tween/teen isn’t easy; so through these workshops, we want parents themselves to feel supported.

Come along with me as I recently spent a half day with parents at Ibity and Behenjy middle schools, two of our partner communities in Vakinankaratra region!

Spaces for peer exchange and discussion

Imagine an inclusive, trusting space where parents can come together to share and find community.

It’s exactly what we foster through our parents’ program.

Early in the morning a few weeks ago, a group of parents gathered in the village of Ibity. Chit-chatting by the school gate, they were eager for the workshop as they waited for our PJL Educator Olivier to arrive.

A group of parents and Projet Jeune Leader Educators stand in a row in front of a school building, posing for a group photo.
PJL Educators and parents at the end of the workshop at Ibity middle school.

Olivier kicked off the workshop welcoming the group with full dynamism and energy, and facilitated a few ice-breaker activities. It’s all part of creating a safe and welcoming environment where participants can feel comfortable sharing their experiences, challenges, and successes as being parents of adolescents.

The PJL Educator then facilitated semi-structured discussion to encourage parents to share their questions and concerns in a spirit of openness and trust. Our agenda for this session is focused on adolescent psychology (i.e., understanding mood changes and other socio-emotional changes brought on by puberty) and adolescents’ physical development through puberty. As the PJL Educator explained the basic science behind these changes, I could see parents light up as they were able to recognize the same characteristics in their children and gain new empathy. One of the parents participating in the workshop in Behenjy shared:

“My kid has exactly the same traits that the PJL Educator is describing: super shy and unwilling to express himself at home. During this workshop I’m getting great suggestions from other parents about how to connect and talk with him and I’m very relieved!”

From theory to the real world

A group of parents and a Projet Jeune Leader Educator stand at a whiteboard writing on it in a classroom.
During last month's workshop in rural Vakinankaratra region.

Another key objective of the workshop is to inspire parents to take a greater role in their children’s educational journey — ever more important in a context of high rates of school dropout in rural Madagascar. We explain that the PJL Educator is here to support them in raising healthy, safe, successful young people — almost like a big brother/sister that will champion their kids as they go through middle school. Alongside the role that the PJL Educator plays, we discuss the important role that parents play in supporting the academic and socio-emotional development of adolescents. The goal is thus to reinforce a collective sense of responsibility between school and home to help children succeed.

The discussions I witnessed in Ibity and Behenjy were active, full of suggestions and reflections as parents exchanged ideas.

“I know that sometimes I’m overly worried about my daughter’s safety. Now, I recognize that I should increase and improve communication instead of always scolding and ordering her.” – Parent

Beyond discussion alone, the workshop also integrated practical activities and role plays to illustrate different ways that parents can facilitate open communication at home. We also shared concrete examples of how parents can incorporate learning and be more involved in their children’s schooling at home, thus improving students’ own motivation and investment in school.

“Now I understand why my kid loves going to school to participate in the PJL Educator’s class. The PJL Educator is super dynamic and creates a great environment.” – Parent

Enhancing sustained partnership

Ultimately, in addition to sharing practical information and advice, our parents’ program aims to create lasting relationships between parents and the PJL Educator working in that community. It really does take a village to shepherd young people through such a critical time in their lives and we know that we’re stronger working together!

“I really appreciate the parents’ program because it’s a chance for me to speak directly with parents and create trusting links. And I can see that they recognize my work here at the middle school because they tell me that they are seeing positive changes within their kids.” – Jasmilot, PJL Educator at Behenjy middle school

A group of parents stand in a classroom with a Projet Jeune Leader Educator clapping and smiling in rural Madagascar.
A Projet Jeune Leader parents' program workshop last year in Haute Matsiatra region.


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