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Betoha: “Now I can read, write and I know about children’s rights”

November 21st, 2023

Betoha, 14 years old, lives with his parents and six siblings in Tatabe, Madagascar. He is an active member of the child rights club in his school. Prior to that, Betoha worked at the mica mines and was also herding cattle. He never attended school and he did not have time to play. He had to take care of himself since his parents and older siblings were always busy working in the mica mines in order to provide food and basic needs for the family.

Betoha in class

Family life

Betoha is the third born of seven siblings. His older siblings have different mothers since his father is a polygamous man. The family lives in a mud house comprised of two small rooms and a roof made of bushes. Farming was the main source of livelihood for the family but persistent drought pushed the family to mica mining, earning 0.60 euro per day. Their daily earnings could only afford dinner, leaving the children hungry throughout the day.

Burden of work

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with almost half of all children between the ages of 5 and 17 involved in child labour. Approximately 10,000 children work in the mica mines, exposed to dust, heat and the scorching sun. They hardly get any food or water while working in the mica mines and they miss the chance to go to school. 

Betoha, like countless others, grew up in extreme poverty. Their village did not have a school, and all the children, including Betoha, would either work in the mica mines or herd cattle, earning 1.7 to 2.12 euros per day. His parents were unaware about children’s rights, resulting in their children working under harsh conditions daily. Due to the poor environment, Betoha and his siblings were often unwell suffering from malaria, diarrhoea and fatigue. These horrible conditions resulted in their slow physical growth. “I was poor without enough food and no education and not good at anything,” Betoha explained.

Glimmer of hope

In February 2022, Betoha's life took a positive turn when he became a beneficiary of the FAMAHA project. He was provided with notebooks, pens and a small blackboard and he now attends school daily. In addition to that, he is provided with lunch at the school canteen and he joined the child rights club where he learns more about children’s rights, reads books and plays football with other club members. 

The project conducts frequent follow-up sessions with Betoha and his family to ensure that he attends school regularly and also educates his parents on children’s rights. “Things are good now that I am full and don’t go work in the mica mines and don’t herd cattle in my daily life. Instead, I go to school,” he said happily.

Embracing Education and Play

Betoha now goes to school daily. He no longer goes to herd cattle or work at the mica mines. He only supports his parents with household chores and firewood fetching. During his free time, Betoha loves playing football, marbles, and hide and seek with his friends. He joins his peers every Wednesday afternoon and during the weekend in school and attends child rights club sessions where they play and learn about children’s rights. Betoha’s parents are no longer subjecting their children to work. They grow greens, tomatoes, and onions, which helps them provide for their family. They ensure the children study, play and are not violated in any way.

New Hopes and dreams

Betoha is now able to read and write. He has high dreams of becoming a valuable member of society, “I want to be successful in my studies and become a constable/police,” he concluded.

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