13 year old Soanavorie lives in Vohimena, Benato with her parents and four siblings. In 2020, she had to drop out of school and help out her parents in the mica mines since they could no longer afford her to pay for her education. Fortunately, her parents were sensitised by the FAMAHA project team on the dangers of children working in the mines. Soanavorie is now back at school, happy and determined to be a nurse in future.
Soanavorie and her family live in a two roomed house and have a separate very small kitchen, and mud-bricks made latrine. She has a playground within the hamlet full of many households where she plays together with her friends every late afternoon. However, since they only have one water well for the entire village, it is very tough and time consuming for her and her siblings to fetch water and bring it back home.
Soanavorie’s parents rely on mica mining and farming to earn a living. They started working in the mica mines since 2004. Her father digs in the mines whereas her mother sorts the mica up on the surface. On average they would earn approximately 3.5 Euros per day, that is, if they could get any mica. In addition to the farming activities, they would earn an average of 70 euros per month. The money would hardly be enough to provide for the entire family causing them to eat one meal at night- cassava, sweet potatoes or maize. If they would earn more money, they would afford some rice.
Soanavorie was enrolled in preschool when she was five years old and attended school up until primary school. Unfortunately, her situation changed for the worse in 2020. Her parents' income dwindled significantly. They would only make 1.10 Euros per day which was not enough to pay for Soanavorie’s school supplies anymore. They had no choice but to request her and her siblings to support them in the mica mines to get enough mica to sell.
Soanavorie remembered being taken to the mica mines by her parents when she was young but had no idea that she would one day be helping them sort mica-a translucent mineral used in cosmetics and automobiles. She experienced the toughest period in her life. She could no longer go to school, she had to work alongside her mother in the mica mines and still survive on only one meal per day. “It is a difficult job to work in the mica mines and it’s very hot.” she narrates.
Luckily in February 2022, the FAFAFI field team were conducting awareness raising activities in Benato area to encourage parents to remove their children from the mica mines and take them back to school. They explained the dangers and detrimental effects of child labour to Soanavorie’ parents and informed that that she will be provided with educational support if she resumed school. Her parents gladly obliged and agreed that it was time for Soanavorie to resume her education. She received 11 copybooks, 1 ruler, 4 pens, 4 erasers, 1 pencil case, 1 black tiny board, and 1 backpack.
Additionally, her father received training on agriculture in November 2022, which helped him start planting beans, greens and rearing chicken. They have so far received 2 chickens and a chicken house. Her father also sells mica in Tulear for a better price and earns more than he did before which has elevated the family's income. Her mother now plants greens and sells them, getting 10 Euros on the best sales day.
Soanavorie is very happy that she is now back to school, studying, playing with her friends and enjoying lunch at the canteen. On a typical day, she wakes up at 6 am and bathes. She does not have breakfast but proceeds to collect firewood from home and takes them with her to the school canteen. She then goes back home to pick up the buckets and fetch some water. At around 10 am, she goes back to school but this time she goes to have lunch at the canteen and continues with school at 12 pm. In class, she studies Malagasy, maths, french, history, geography, and science, but also does reading lessons. During breaks, she gets a chance to play football with her friends in the school playground. She is also part of the child rights club where she is educated on children rights every Saturday morning. When school finishes at 5 pm. She goes back home and supports her parents with cooking, doing the dishes, and cleaning the house. After that she plays with the other children in the hamlet and has dinner, rice and greens or meat sometimes, at 8 pm. Thereafter, she revises her lessons and falls asleep.
“I’m thankful to the Vazaha (foreigners) for the support they’ve given to us, if they weren’t there for me, things would not have been like this.”The project support is good for me because it’s saving us. My parents do not worry about buying school supplies any longer. They’ve received training on agriculture, we’ve received chicken to farm. I am even getting better at school.” Soanavorie explains.
From working in the mines, to going back to school, Soanavorie’s life completely changed for the better. She dreams of being a nurse in the future to give her parents and siblings a better life. We will continue to rescue more and more children like Soanavorie from the mica mines and provide them with an opportunity to pursue an education and fulfil their dreams.