We are currently planning our next project visit to Bugarama in November later this year. Once again, we are hoping to take a small group of volunteers with us. We already have four volunteers signed up, including one from Zambia who has been supporting one of our projects there and is keen to see how we operate elsewhere. We have been advertising in the local media in Jersey and through Facebook and have an information evening at the end of April.
Our project this year in Muko St Paul School is a complex and challenging one. Muko has expanded enormously in the past few years, growing to over 3,200 pupils ranging from Nursery intake to Advanced Senior classes, preparing students for university. The popularity of the school reflects its success in national exams as well as the pride in the improving infrastructure of the school and it’s been wonderful to see the development of the school over the past ten years.
Muko is answering the Rwandan government demands to expand secondary education for all young people as well as to phase out the double shift system at primary level whereby pupils only receive half a day’s schooling to allow others to come to school in the afternoons. Additional classrooms are urgently required to meet these improvements.
The challenge the school now faces is how to provide those additional classrooms in a confined space. There is no room left on the school site which is hemmed in by houses on three sides and a main road on the other. The only solution is to build on top of existing buildings. This is a complex engineering task and we must ensure that the contractors are sufficiently skilled to ensure that the construction is safe and secure. We will have a trusted project coordinator on site throughout the project.
Once again, we are grateful for the ongoing support of Jersey Overseas Aid who provide the main source of funding. Our volunteers will actually be working at another school in the town helping with renovation and painting. Ryankana faces the same challenges as Muko – and that will be part of our continuing support for educational development and transformation in Bugarama.
Having returned from another successful visit to Bugarama just before Christmas last year, it was time for volunteers to meet together and discuss achievements as well as future plans.
Adhering to the three-year plan that has been drawn up, extensive refurbishments were carried out in 2018 at seven classrooms at Kibangira School. Also, maintenance work was carried out on an outside washing area at Muko School. New boilers were installed in the kitchens to prepare and serve the daily cooked food in more hygienic manner, which sadly is still only available to the 1000 secondary students. Unfortunately, due to the lack of classrooms, the remaining 2300 primary students can only attend for half days, and therefore do not receive any food. Plans for this year include building further classrooms for this school.
Another school in the area is Ryankana, a primary school with over 2100 students in only 20 classrooms. These students also only attend on a half day basis. There are only 32 long drop unhygienic toilets for all these students and no kitchens, which means no meals can be provided. Many of the classrooms at Ryankana are in a very poor condition, with mud floors and holes in the walls that serve as windows, providing inadequate ventilation for the children to be able to study. Our volunteers along with the help of local labor can make some improvements by laying floors and installing windows.
Over the many years that Hands Around The World volunteers have been working in this area, we have seen many changes and vast improvements. Not only in the school buildings, but also in the students attendance, which is due to the much improved school conditions.
We continue to work relentlessly to raise funds to develop these schools, but financial help is always needed. All our volunteers continue to self-finance these trips, and they always employ local labor whilst working on these projects.
Any donations received go directly to the projects. All our members are volunteers and we have no administration costs.
By Michael Haden | Chairman, Hands around The World
Classroom in Mubera
We have been holding discussions with the Rotary Club of Jersey about a long-term project which will potentially transform one of the schools on the outskirts of Bugarama.
Mubera Primary school, located in Gikundamvura Sector, Rusizi District, Rwanda, currently with 455 pupils and 11 teachers. The school is situated in a remote area, on a hillside, with difficult road access. The school has expanded quickly from its foundation in 2008 and has doubled its number of pupils since 2011. The poor-quality original construction materials are crumbling away and the dilapidated classrooms are some of the worst we have seen in Rwanda.
We first visited the school two years ago when the local Parish Priest, Father Felix, tried to get us interested in undertaking a project there. Our original thoughts were that the conditions were too difficult for us to be able to send a team of volunteers there. In addition, the school needed more than just a few new buildings. The expectations of the local community were low – no pupils from Mubera had ever achieved good enough grades to transfer to secondary school. Pupils often missed school to help their parents working in the fields as there was little confidence in education.
Following a visit to Mubera from a member of the Rotary Club in Jersey interest has been generated in a plan to give the school a huge uplift, not just with new a few new classrooms. Proposals include support for a school meals programme which will encourage parents to send their children to school and improve general attendance. A kitchen will be needed. There will be a commitment to sponsor any student who gains secondary qualification to allay parents’ fears that they would be unable to afford the fees. There is little attraction for teachers to stay at the school so building teacher accommodation has been put forward. This needs further discussion with the local authorities as this is a novel idea in Rwanda.
For children who leave primary school there is little prospect in the area except to help their parents with subsistence farming. Another planned initiative is to develop a vocational training section at the school to offer courses in masonry, carpentry, painting, needlework and tailoring.
Finally, the plan includes a sports court for basketball, volleyball and netball. We have seen in other local schools the sense of pride that comes from such a facility.
All of this doesn’t come cheap of course. The overall project will probably amount to £90,000 over four years. This is an ambitious scheme for Rotary to undertake. Hands Around The World will work in partnership with Rotary, making the most of our local contacts. Rotary also hope to get some Rotary members from Kigali interested in supporting their project. Hopefully, some representatives from the Rotary of Jersey will pay a visit to Bugarama – there is nothing like personal knowledge to inspire yet more visions of what can be achieved
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