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Diocese of Antsiranana
(Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean)
Never too late to learn: one woman empowers another through literacy
Photo No. : P071212-3
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Literacy Programme Bears Fruit in Tanambao V, Antsiranana
Alice Chung Po Chuen
December 12, 2007

[Diocese of Antsiranana - Indian Ocean] Following an eight-month 'pregnancy' marked by anxiety, discouragement and threatened miscarriage, literacy teacher Simone has brought forth a baby of hope and light. Simone, a frail but determined woman of 29, is also an evangelist from the cathedral. She is now finally harvesting the fruit of hardship and toil that she sowed with great patience and determination - but above all with tremendous prayers, commitment and love.

At noon on Friday 7 December, church leaders witnessed this long-awaited 'birth' in the person of one of Simone's students, 48-year-old grandmother Zaniliny, as she proudly demonstrated her newly acquired skill of reading. Slowly, but with much assurance, she read from the textbook: Faly ny olona manana an'i Jesoa.... Afterwards she proudly displayed her exercise book, proof of her achievement in writing and simple calculation.

Most importantly, Zaniliny is now able to read and understand her Bible. She described how this had long been her desire: each Sunday after attending the service at the Lutheran Church, she struggled to remember the readings and preaching. But praise the Lord! Thanks to this literacy training, Zaniliny the laundrywoman has achieved her objective and is now able to participate fully and grow up spiritually in her church.

As Zaniliny was telling the story of her newly acquired reading skill in Simone's one-roomed tin shack, two young men in their early twenties entered nervously. Their work is to carry and sell water house to house, and Simone is one of their customers. So often they had witnessed the class in progress; on several occasions they had enquired about learning to read. Now they expressed their eager desire to attend the Literacy Course themselves.

The programme had initially been designed for women and girls only, as Tanambao V is one of the poorer suburbs of Antsiranana and security is precarious. The leaders were concerned for Simone's well-being as she is widowed and lives alone. However, since she knew these young men well and trusted their sincerity, and because of their great eagerness to learn, they finally agreed to their request. As the news was broken to them, the two young men's anxious faces turned to smiles and beamed with joy.

It so happens that the three literacy students mentioned above all come from remote villages in the Province of Fiaranantsoa in the South of Madagascar. None of them has ever attended school.