Mothers and Daughters: A word from Sister Ann Fox
An ever-growing Maranyundo Girls School Family
The first Sunday of February is busy for schools in Rwanda. National exams results had been announced two weeks previously, invitations sent , responses received, and new Senior 1 and Senior 4 students (7th and 10th graders) will arrive at their schools on that date. At Maranyundo Girls Schools, 60 new girls received invitations and 60 Senior 3 graduates moved on to A Level senior secondary schools. It is a busy time!
The first order of business for Sister Juvenal, Head of School, is to make sure the Maranyundo girls going into Senior 4 are settled in their new schools. One student was unaccounted for at Rwamagana, which is a favorite school for families from Bugesera district because it is considered close enough to go by foot, even though it is almost a day’s walk. Rwamagana is run by the St. Joseph’s brothers, another Rwandan order started around the same time as the Benebikira.
Sister asked the missing student’s mother to come to see her and learned that her daughter was going to the basic 9-12 public school in the village. The mother explained she did not have the means to send her daughter to the more expensive private school. The district could not help alleviate the cost because there was a local school her daughter could attend. When Sister Juvenal told her the Maranyundo Girls School could assist her to buy what was needed, the mother broke down in sobs. Maranyundo had helped her when her daughter was at the school but to help her daughter in a new school, was something she did not think possible. She was very grateful. Now the last of the graduates were settled, ready to start the new school year.
A special tradition that binds us
With the last Senior 4 student settled in her new school, it is time to welcome the new Senior 1 class to campus. Each girl in Senior 2 (Grade 8) picks the name of a new student who will be her ‘daughter’ for the years ahead from a basket. As Mother she will be responsible for taking care of her daughter and orientating her to school life. It is a position of great responsibility. The Senior 2 “mother” will be responsible for orientating and taking care of the new comer with a little help from the older and wiser Senior 3 ‘grandmother’. Her first task is to make up the bunk bed below hers. The daughter, the mother and the ‘grandmother’ will all sleep next to each other in the dormitory. While living away from their own families they will be family to one another.
Sunday is an exciting day. Families arrive by car and by foot with luggage varying from large too small. It is all examined – some items sent home with the families and some items added that might have been lacking. No cell phones, no jewelry, and no radios allowed! One room was transformed into a fitting room for uniforms and once the girls are dressed and receive their sport and working clothes they are turned over to their Maranyundo mothers. One of the new American volunteers thought she could help, but soon realized that the Senior 2’s had everything under control – It was their day!
One girl is missing. Sister sends word to the mother to explain. She says she has no money to buy what was on the list. Sister tells her not to worry and gives her a large bag of the required items. The mother can not believe that God is helping. Sister Juvenal is not a relative, she does not know her or where she comes from, and yet she was offering her assistance. Through quiet tears, she keeps saying she can not believe this. Sister Juvenal explains that God wants to help her, and uses people to do so. Again through tears she explains that she is an orphan who has no family, and her husband also lost his family and his right hand because of Genocide. They have five children and are expecting their sixth, rebuilding a family for the future. It is apparent that their daughter will not be the only member of the family to have a Maranyundo “mother.” These orphan parents now have Sister Juvenal as their Maranyundo “mother”.
On Tuesday morning the Class of 2015 is complete. In no way is it possible any longer to tell who had arrived by car and who had traveled by foot. All have the required items on the list – no one has more and no one was lacking for anything. They all have mothers. They have begun their journey.