Archive for the ‘school’ Category

Bisate School

“Muzungu! Muzingu!” all the children shouted as I arrived at the primary school in Bisate. My guide today, Joseph Karama, the manager of the Education Program for Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund international, turned to me and said, “Do you know what they mean? They are shouting: White person! White person!”  When travelling, most people resent the fact that locals will always treat them as an outsider and always will consider them as much  no matter how well they assimilate into the culture. I’ve felt this way many a time before but have come to accept the fact that my pale skin and blond hair makes me stick out like a sore thumb.

 Bisate kids

The kids swarmed us as we got out of the truck to meet the director of the school, Ndayambate Michel.  The school was split between several small buildings that housed the classrooms. It was built in 1972 by the ministry of education and provides schooling for 1,700 children, but until recently had few resources and poor sanitation.  There were only six toilets for the students and teachers to share, which meant there was one toilet for around 285 people.  The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has since funded 25 more toilets, bringing the number of people sharing a toilet down to 55.  This number is still high and there are plans to add more in the future once enough funding can be secured.

 New toilets







Water Tank


In addition, the Fund installed two water tanks last year. Water is hard to acquire around this area and the conditions are therefore very unsanitary.  These tanks collect and store rain water. This is very useful, since the area gets a great deal of rain throughout the year.


Fifth Grade 

With help from Partners in Conservation, the Fund has provided writing materials, notebooks, geometry kits, science books, an atlas and the Hobe newsletter that is written specifically for kids up to the age of 6. The soccer teams also have new uniforms and the school has received a suitcase filled with puppets of all the local animals to teach conservation education. Joseph added that the Fund has just ordered bicycles for all the teachers. This resulted in big congratulations all around and lots of excitement.  Plans also in the works include new solar panels that will provide electricity for the school.  The roofs also need to be replaced since the ones that don’t collect rain water are still made with asbestos and can also be used for collection in the future.  There is also a need for new classrooms, since the secondary school is presently borrowing several of their classrooms.  The construction will cost $75,000 in total.



Director of the School

The director of the school is fairly new and was very happy to work for a school supported by the Fund: “When I first came here, I was pleased to hear that it is supported by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.  The Karisoke Research Center has given over 12,000 books, which is an opportunity other schools don’t have.  This school will be excellent.”



Two Students


His hopes are high and he tells me that eventually he would like to see a computer lab built for the secondary school and to have a sheep cooperative for the teachers to improve their lives.  I too hope that these can become reality. It’s only a matter of money. It always is just a matter of money.


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AntoinetteIn life you will probably only meet a handful of people who have devoted their lives to helping others. It seems, here in Rwanda, every time I turn around I meet someone exactly like that. Today, I was sent to visit the Tujijurane Association projects. Mukakalisa Antoinette began the association in 2002 with the goal to alleviate poverty through education. “Poverty is ignorance,” she told me, “There are no poor people; there is only ignorance.” The association has six classes that teach nursery through grade two and a class for mothers where they learn sewing. “My parents died when I was young and I paid for school by sewing for the nuns.”

Grade 1

Antoinette smiles like no other and, I say this a lot, makes me feel like I’ve known her for years. There something amazingly addictive about how people relate to each other in the political South. It is much more intimate than in the Western world.

“Since my own kids have grown up, I am free to completely devote myself to these students.”


Antoinette has seen her programs grow significantly since they began and DFGFI signed on in 2005. There used to be 40 kids and 20 mothers in the program. There are now 260 kids and 140 mothers and she has aspirations for expansion.  Each class has about 15-20 kids and there are afternoon homework help and nursery programs. Her eyes twinkle as she tells me the plans for the future. She tells me how each year they try to expand a year until they will eventually reach grade 6. The problem is, there is not enough funding or space. The neighbours are demanding inflated prices for their land. She also wants to set up a program for the great number of orphans created by the genocide and HIV/AIDS.


Alecia had told me before I left to meet Antoinette that it is people like her that keep her going. It’s true, meeting people like Antoinette fills the heart with renewed hope.  In my hometown, Montreal, the schools teach in both French and English and it would be so easy to send them extra books in either language. I thoroughly detest fundraising and always try to get money in other ways. However, after meeting Antoinette, I don’t feel so proud that I can’t go ask some people for a few books.

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