Every day in the news we hear stories of country leadership around the world doing everything they can to keep girls out of school. In Rwanda they work to support and increase the educational opportunities for girls. The level of commitment in Rwanda to girl’s education and to gender equality surpasses even many Western developed nations. It makes fertile ground for the Maranyundo Girls School’s commitment to excellent education.
– Daphne Petri, Board Chair – Maranyundo Initiative
Rwanda, a small, densely populated, landlocked country in central Africa, has the potential to become one of the first great developing country success stories of the twenty-first century. From the unimaginable tragedy of the country’s 1994 genocide, Rwanda’s new leaders are building a future based on justice, reconciliation, national pride and entrepreneurship.
Rwanda’s leaders are determined to move from an almost complete dependence on foreign aid, to a nation characterized by a culture of initiative and entrepreneurship, a vibrant private sector, and productive interaction with the world.
The country’s determination has led to impressive results in the short time since the genocide. But much remains to be done.
Education plays a pivotal role in this transformation. For Rwanda, with few natural resources, the importance of education takes on even greater significance. Rwanda also faces unique challenges created by its recent tragic history. During the genocide, most of the teachers were killed, school buildings demolished, and children’s education disrupted. While an impressive 95% of Rwandan children were enrolled in Grades 1-6 in 2006, only half of those children remain in school through the end of grade 6 and only 10% go on to secondary school. Of that 10% less than half are girls, which means roughly 5% of girls aged 13-18 in the country attend secondary school. In addition, at the secondary level in Rwanda, only 54% of teachers were considered qualified in 2006, which led to many qualified teachers being hired from Uganda or Kenya.
INVEST IN GIRLS’ EDUCATION, INVEST IN RWANDA
Rwanda has achieved impressive gains in primary school enrollment. However, the number of students moving onto secondary school falls short of goals, especially for girls. The numbers are particularly alarming in rural areas. The leaders of Rwanda are committed to gender parity and promoting the status of women. Despite this commitment, and widespread understanding of the specific challenges in the education sector, large-scale efforts to effect changes in education in Rwanda are limited.
When Rwandan leaders invited us to join the nation’s post genocide transformation by enriching and improving education for girls, and to help expand the pool of talented capable women, we saw both the need and the foundation for success.
In Rwanda, following the genocide, it was the women, many with little or no education, who were often left to pick up the pieces. They found themselves in new leadership roles as heads of households, primary wage earners, and leaders in government. Rwanda now has the highest percentage of women in parliament of any country in the world.
BELIEF IN THE ABILITY OF EVERY GIRL
A new generation of girls needs to be educated to continue this leadership. Research highlights 7th grade as the age when educational intervention can make a critical difference in a child’s life. The Maranyundo Girls School is preparing its students to be the next generation of women leaders in Rwanda.
Students come from a diverse mix of backgrounds, income levels, family circumstances and academic preparation. Special care is taken to treat them alike – to create a community of equals where students learn and help each other. The culture of the school focuses on simplicity, beauty and quality and all benefit from this focus.