Madagascar: Urbanization and Rural Development
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Students in the SIT Madagascar: National Identity and Social Change program discover the multifaceted ways in which ethnicity, language, geography, history, politics, and religion have shaped Madagascar's identity and prompted social change. Students consider issues such as group cohesion, social splintering, and empowerment, as well as the role played by global forces, including foreign investment and anti-poverty programs. The program combines classroom learning with field-based study in Antananarivo and beyond.
Exploring Antananarivo (program base)
The program is based in Antananarivo, commonly referred to as "Tana", where students live for much of the semester. Tana is a beautiful city built on hills, with distinct neighborhoods, bustling open-air markets, intriguing paths and endless staircases that wind their way among the hills. The city reflects a fascinating mix of 19th century Malagasy and more recent European influences, evident in its layout, architecture, economy, attitude, and atmosphere.
Tana's central role as the seat of government and as an economic, administrative, and artistic capital makes it an excellent base from which to explore the program's major themes. Whenever there is social or political change in Madagascar, the movements usually begin in Tana. Most national and international organizations with operations in Madagascar are headquartered in Tana. Although the city is considered part of the traditional homeland of the Merina people, its population is composed of people from all parts of the country and all of Madagascar's ethnic groups are represented.
Improving French language skills in a new context
Students use academic French throughout the program's coursework and apply their French while in Tana and other larger cities. The program's intensive French language course focuses primarily on conversation with some emphasis on writing skills. Students are divided by language staff into at least three groups based on ability level. Efforts are made to meet the specific needs of each student. Students have the opportunity to practice their language skills both in and outside the classroom, including during homestays, lectures, and field visits.
Note: As it is assumed that students enter the program with at least a low intermediate level in French, basic instruction at the novice level is not part of the curriculum.
Given that French is less commonly spoken in the country's rural areas, the Malagasy language course helps students better communicate during village stays, and excursions to rural areas or smaller urban centers. Learning even a little bit of Malagasy helps students to make inroads into the culture, as well as to make friends and contacts.
Linguists classify Malagasy among the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian language family. The numerous Malagasy dialects are closely related and all are considered to be variants of a single language. Students learn everyday Malagasy with an emphasis on Official Malagasy, the dialect most commonly spoken in Antananarivo. Some instruction in key words and phrases from other dialects are provided as the program moves to other regions of the country.
Independent Study Project
In the final month of the Madagascar: National Identity and Social Change program students complete an Independent Study Project (ISP), a field-based academic study of a topic related to Malagasy culture and society. Each student selects an ISP advisor from among the outstanding array of researchers and professionals affiliated with the program. The ISP is conducted in an approved region of Madagascar appropriate to the student's project.
Sample topics for the ISP include:
- Role of fady (taboo) in Malagasy life
- Family planning on the village level
- Role of ombiasy (traditional healers)
- Traditional weaving techniques
- Pre-natal health care in rural areas
- Malaria prevention and treatment
- Language teaching in primary and secondary education
- Local radio as a means of communication
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Madagascar, Antananarivo
Language Study: French, Malagasy
Prerequisites: 2 semesters French Read more...
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