Education et Santé
pour les enfants du monde

The Great Dictation: in class with the children at Ecole Brechbuehl

“What’s the temperature in Madagascar?” asked the young boy. His classmates gathered round, poring over a map of the world, trying to work out the climate of the island from its proximity to the equator. After some discussion, and the opinion of the teacher, it was agreed that Madagascar was “rather hot” and very humid.

“What’s the temperature in Madagascar?” asked the young boy. His classmates gathered round, poring over a map of the world, trying to work out the climate of the island from its proximity to the equator. After some discussion, and the opinion of the teacher, it was agreed that Madagascar was “rather hot” and very humid.

Ecole Brechbühl
Great concentration is needed for these little
hands to cut out and stick the letters correctly

This discussion came at the end of a dictation, in French, part of the Dictée du Choeur fundraising drive taking place at the Ecole Brechbühl, a private primary school on the edge of Geneva’s historic Old Town. The pupils of 6P, a boys-only class (an exception at the school), had just listened to their teacher, Virginie Voituret, read a 96-word text describing the island where Don du Choeur has built a primary school.

The work at Brechbühl is the culmination of the Great Dictation series for the Madagascar project. Every class is taking part, and every pupil has asked his or her family for sponsorship for each word correctly spelt. The idea is to supplement the money already raised in order to provide a uniform, school supplies and a daily meal to each of the 360 children attending the new school at Andohasatra-Betioky, in the poverty-stricken south of the island.

It was the Head of Brechbühl, Gabrielle Schneebeli – herself a former pupil there – who came up with the idea of organising a dictation to support Don du Choeur, following a similar experience in another school she had worked in. The first was for the Kenya project, in 2013, and raised the extraordinary amount of CHF 22,000.

“Of course it was an excellent result,” says Mrs Schneebeli, “but it’s not only about the money. The Great Dictation has two aspects that are important to us: pedagogical, in that the children are encouraged to give of their best in a spelling test; and humanitarian, in that they’re doing it not for themselves but for children who are really in need. That is very close to the school’s core values.”

Ecole Brechbühl
Each word correctly spelt earns money to support
the Malagasy schoolchildren


It’s not only the older pupils taking part: in class 1P, a group of four-year-olds helped to write the word Madagascar on the chalkboard, then were given a sheet of paper with the letters on it, in random order; their task was to cut out the letters and then stick them down in the right order, to spell the word

properly. For each correct letter the sponsors had to pay whatever amount they had pledged.

Did they understand why they were doing this, what the money raised would go towards? “The children in Madagascar don’t have money to go to school, so we help them,” says Solal, who claims he is “almost five”.

Their teacher, Angela Mossaz, says they began the project by seeing the animated film “Madgascar”, talking about the animals, and in general about what it meant to be in a poorer country and how we in more privileged positions could help.

Entry-year classes of three-year-olds can also take part; their challenge is to correctly recognise the colours on the Madagascar flag, or name animals in pictures.

The staff and children at the Ecole Brechbühl, along with the four other private schools* that have taken part in the Great Dictation, have made a direct and measurable difference to the lives of the children in Andohasatra-Betioky – children of many nationalities, living in Geneva, have helped to give the children in “rather hot” Madagascar the hope of a better life.

Ecole Brechbühl
The boys of Class 6P manage to combine
good work with a sense of fun


*Other participating schools as of 1 February 2017: Institut Florimont, La Découverte, Eden School, and the Ecole en Musique. Other fundraising activities were organised by the Lycée Toepffer and the Ecole des Nations. More schools are planning to get involved. The results of the Great Dictation are updated on the Don du Choeur website and will be published in the next newsletter