This is Anjezika. Once a vibrant fishing and rice-growing village, it has gradually been encircled and choked off by the surrounding city of Antananarivo, Madagascar. Now, nobody grows anymore rice here. A few small fish can be collected from the stagnant water that separates small squares of low-lying land where the people have built their homes.
Rickety wooden walkways criss-cross the water. Locals who have grown up here nimbly navigate the missing boards and carry their loads past me as I step carefully, awkwardly, on the unfamiliar terrain, worried one wrong slip will send me and my camera gear tumbling into the murky water below.
The people here are friendly. They’re used to seeing us come and go. I first came here to photograph the kids taking part in Teach for Madagascar – the twice-weekly, volunteer-led “school of the street” that represents the only schooling most of them will ever see.
School is officially free in Madagascar. But there are fees – school supplies, sometimes uniforms, other fees – that simply don’t rise high enough in Maslow’s hierarchy for most parents in Anjezika to be able to afford them. There are simply too many other, more urgent costs.
It’s morning in Anjezika, and there is work to be done. The plants that grow in the water are bagged up and sold as pig feed; there is fishing, made easier by lowering the water levels in certain areas; there are crayfish to be gathered. There are shops and businesses to be operated. There is laundry to be done.
There’s also a business where guys make wheelbarrows. For some reason, wheelbarrows in Antananarivo tend to all be green. You can see them making them from scratch – welding them from pieces of sheet metal, riveting, painting…
Even the wheels are made by hand – from a few feet away, they look like ordinary rubber tires. But they’re actually made from chopped up plastic which is placed in molds and melted back together so that they fit around a metal rim. With a nice coat of green spraypaint, the wheelbarrows are all ready to be sold – no pump necessary!
There’s a lot of water in Anjezika. The rainy season in Madagascar is about to start. I’m told that once the low areas of Antananarivo fill up, the water levels reach up to just below the wooden walkways that characterize the neighborhood.
Many of the houses are at or above this level – but not all of them. Many of the people will spend months walking through the dirty, parasite-infested water. Besides parasites, people suffer from a lot of other medical problems related to sanitation. There is a well where people can draw water, which is collected in large, 5-liter jugs, normally carried by kids. But there is no trash collection, and there are very few toilets. The water is important for Anjezika. But in many ways also Anjezika’s curse.
The kids in Anjezika who take part in “Teach for Madagascar” were using a small building that was on loan for classes. Then the owner rescinded the offer and they ended up outside, next to the building – in an area that had previously been where they had taken bathroom breaks. Now they are in another building, but the organization pays rent.
In the next month or two, we want to help Zanaky ny Lalana (“Children of the Street”) raise money to build a schoolhouse on land that the community has made available for the purpose. The building will belong to the community, primarily as a safe space for kids. Using local labor and materials, you’ll be surprised how inexpensive such a schoolhouse can be – though still well beyond the means of the community of Anjezika. We hope to announce our fundraiser shortly and hope to get lots of help!
You can see more photos of Anjezika at this Flickr Page, other photos I have taken for Zanaky ny Lalana at this Flickr page, and other photos I have taken for Teach for Madagascar at this Flickr page.