Andrew Lees Trust was delighted to see the delivery of over 400 books to the University in Ambovombe (CURA) in the region of Androy 0n the 9th March 2016.
Nearly twenty years ago ALT sent these books to help form a library at the Centre Ecologique Libanona (CEL) in Ft Dauphin, the Anosy Region, in order to support Malagasy students with their studies – especially with their environmental research and understanding. ALT has subsequently provided environmental students at CEL with bursaries under the Andrew Lees and Marek Mayer bursary awards.
Pic right: Students at CURA with the CEL books
The CEL evolved from a small project launched by the Founders Mark Fenn (WWF) and Raoul Moulder (University of Melbourne) in 1995, with assistance from School for International Training (SIT) , Andrew Lees Trust (ALT) , University of Melbourne and others, into a Malagasy led and run higher education centre offering BAC+ university accredited programmes. Its’ students have received international bursaries, academic and/or technical support from internationals with long standing relations with the region and with the CEL.
Pic left: the CURA institute in Ambovombe at delivery of the books
Sadly this year the CEL is closing its doors after nearly twenty years of delivering training and higher education to Malagasy students in the south of the island.
In the last few years the mining company Rio Tinto, under the auspices of its QMM Social and environmental programme in Anosy, supported the launch of a new higher education centre in Ft Dauphin (ISTA). It seems there was no consultation about the role or future of the CEL in this planning, or why another centre was needed or opened when one was already present in Anosy; for example why CEL, the existing local higher education facility, was not offered capacity building or expansion supports if an increased local need had been identified. Unfortunately because the new ISTA centre has access to infrastructure and bursaries from Rio Tinto, CEL has been unable to compete.
Hence the local, indigenous led CEL has been lost to the region after twenty years of service to the community. Its excellent track record in student graduation has also served as an important model of local ownership and local leadership in Anosy.
ALT is deeply concerned by unequal power relations and practices of external, internationally driven development in the region, especially any disadvantageous actions that result in discrimination against or dissolution of indigenous organisations and initiatives, like the CEL.
Pic right: CURA students and teachers at the official hand over of the CEL books
With the closure of the CEL, ALT was happy to join the Association of Friends of the CEL launched by Barry Ferguson last year. It was subsequently agreed with Barry and with ALT Mg , our local partner, that the books donated by ALT over the years to the CEL Library should be transferred to the new CURA University facility in Ambovombe Androy -a Malagasy institute, run by Malagasy, serving local Malagasy populations. As such it fits the ALT criteria of local ownership.
ALT is indebted to Barry Ferguson for shipping the books to Ambovombe, organizing and liaising with CURA, ALT MG, ALT UK and CEL to make this transfer of assets possible.
We hope Malagasy students at CURA in Ambovombe will now benefit from the library resource, as students in CEL have done for the last two decades, and we wish them every success with their studies and with the future of the region.