With smiling faces, the Ntenyo community has once again welcomed members of Sanejo and YGAP to oversee and assist construction of the Ntenyo Primary School. Over the last week, the group of inspired volunteers has made their journey to Rwanda with the goal of erecting three new classrooms for students in levels P1 through P6. With the help of over 40 local masons and construction workers, a dozen team members and volunteers expect to complete the majority of construction over the next two weeks.
The volunteers will also be present in the existing classrooms, supporting the teachers and encouraging the students. This visit will mark the third consecutive year of on-site development at the school, as part of Sanejo and YGAP’s five-year plan to improve Ntenyo’s educational and community infrastructure.
As a highlight of the visit so far, Sanejo and YGAP participated in Ntenyo Primary School’s first “Reading Day” on Wednesday, which was orchestrated to promote the importance of knowledge and education attained through reading. The day began with a cheerful assembly on the lawn led by the school principal, which included a daily prayer, a series of songs sung in Kinyarwanda, and a rousing jingle intended for the visitors that stated: “We are happy to receive you, welcome!” The students were then marched into the church and seated in the pews, along with the teachers. The volunteers were graciously given seats at the front, and in keeping with the tune, had the pleasure of feeling completely welcome.
Over the next couple of hours, select students from P1 through P3 were brought to the front of the church to read short stories aloud. After each story, the students individually received a roar of clapping sounds and a standing ovation from the crowd, which totaled over 300 students, teachers, administrators, volunteers and other visitors. The reading sessions were followed by a play that was put on by a group of P6 students, who comically and creatively performed a story about a Rwandan who brought his family shame for misinterpreting a street sign due to his inability to read. The message emphasizing the value of reading was clear, and a series of “thank you” erupted from the students; many pledging to read more books as they departed from the celebration.
For lunch, the volunteers hosted a “fruit party” for the teachers and construction workers, where words of gratitude and fervor were exchanged in both English and Kinyarwanda. The workers then began clapping and singing; all with passionate smiles on their faces. Slowly, a group of them took the hands of the volunteers and led them into an empty area at the front of the church. An energetic explosion of traditional Rwandan dancing commenced, with the volunteers mimicking the moves of their counterparts and smiles mirrored on their faces.
The group’s time in Ntenyo so far has served as a wonderful introduction to the community, boosting a feeling of true unity, partnership, and the promise of a stronger educational future. The new classrooms are part of Sanejo and YGAP’s collaborative effort to “rebuild tomorrow’s generation” through educational access and empowerment. Expected to be completed in 2014, the Ntenyo Primary School Project is specifically designed to develop educational and community infrastructure in Ntenyo as well as promote sound education standards.
On April 21st hundreds of adults and children gathered at Ntenyo School to honour Joseph Rutabagisha, the late founder of the primary school in Ntenyo. The ceremony was part of the 18th commemoration of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which Joseph was one of the hundreds of thousands of victims. His family and community members recounted stories of how Joseph started the school in the 1950’s, and how the community and partners have continued to rebuild the school since.
The event also provided a special occasion to thank Sanejo’s University interns, Darius and Clarisse. They have been working with the teachers in Ntenyo for a year, helping them to improve their teaching and language skills. Two new interns, Jean-Pierre Munyeshyaka and Divine Umubyeyi, will continue the work in the year to come.
Attending the ceremony were also students from a Washington-DC based University. The visiting students participated in reading workshops with primary six students, fostering a reading habit. In addition, together with Ntenyo teens affiliated with Sanejo, the American students worked at a special community service event. This umuganda cleared an area where new classrooms will be built in October and November later this year.
The preparation for this year’s construction and volunteer project are well on their way. We extend our gratitude to all our partners who continue to make Sanejo’s work in Ntenyo possible. This year we are raising funds to build four more classrooms. Our goal is to complete the school’s construction and our teacher training efforts by 2015.
Global Giving Update
It’s been an eventful couple of months in Ntenyo. The New Year brought with it the end of the 2011 P6-ers (the oldest students) time at the primary school. Overall the students scored second in the district on their end examination out of 24 schools in Ruhango district. A huge achievement considering the school was in threat of being shut down nearly 4 years ago.
Mukeshimana Delphine was awarded a full scholarship by Sanejo to attend boarding school at Nyakabanda Secondary School in Muhanga District. Sanejo’s Secondary School Scholarships are awarded annually to the girl and boy who score high enough on their end examination to be offered a spot at a boarding school within the country. Students who pass the exam but do not make the cut-off for boarding school are now attending high school in Ruhango District, a 30-45min walk from Ntenyo.
At the end of last year, Sanejo also began a young professionals program dedicated to training young professionals from cities and rural communities in Rwanda about community development. The program began with Sanejo’s co-founder, David Mwambari, taking a group of 20 young professionals to the Ntenyo community for a day of Umuganda (community service) and thematic discussion sessions. The breakout sessions were focused on Teaching, Small Business Development and Community Infrastructure.
The Small Business group was primarily composed of the skilled laborers that have constructed the new primary classrooms over the last two summers. They shared their stories about the investments they had been able to make with the income from the Ntenyo school project and the effect it has had on their livelihoods. Onesphore, for example, was able to save enough money to buy a cow that produces more milk than his previous cow. He is now able to sell more milk at the market and hopes to use the profits to buy an additional cow for his family.
Gasigwa used his savings from working on the new classrooms to purchase a camera and is now known as the community photographer. He used the proceeds from his photographs to upgrade to a digital camera and now has a shop in town with a printer and running electricity. The latter also allows community members to charge their mobile phones for a small price, helping both Gasigwa and the community.
The young professionals left Ntenyo at the end of the day inspired by the perseverance of the Ntenyo community members, pledging to implement similar programs in their own villages. Sanejo is working with its partners in Rwanda to grow this young professionals program and will be running more trainings throughout the year.
And last but not least, the dates for the YGAP volunteer program are set! From November 2 – 17th, 2012, Sanejo and YGAP will be working with the Ntenyo community to build four additional classrooms. The focus of this year’s volunteer program will be on creating sports activities and hygiene workshops for the Ntenyo students during their winter holiday.