Monday, July 7, 2014

Boneza or bust!

"Welcome to the sector of Boneza.
Many good things coming soon."
Seriously, that's really what it says.
Just getting back into town after a productive time in the Boneza Sector.  I’m looking forward to getting some antibiotics going as my stomach has not been loving life for the past 5 days or so.  Thankfully it hasn’t been so bad during the day as we’ve been going hard with lots to do.  We’ve gotten to tour some possible land sites for KHA with an architect and the local land broker.  Have a look…
The view from Lake Kivu at sunset.  One possible site for the KHA Agricultural/Lake campus is across the water to the left

Our friend Jean Pierre (right) and the headmaster of a
government O-level school
We’ve had the privilege to tour many schools, interview teachers, students, parents, local leaders and the folks we’ll likely be working with on the KHA project.  Over and over the educational need comes up for hands-on technical/vocational skills that will translate into jobs.  In this small rural community you don’t have many people asking for a college-preparatory education, but instead the training in entrepreneurship and trades that can provide a living.  90%  of Boneza is farming, and yet most farm only enough for themselves and their families.  The community lacks the business training to develop a product or a service that can be taken to market for a profit.  And so things stay the same.  

John getting the students thinking at a government primary school.
One figure that really stands out to me after talking to the teachers of an O-level government school in Boneza (grades 7-9) is this:  Although 98% of all their students will past the Senior 3 National exam (after 9th grade), only 15% will be able to attend High School (A-level) on a government scholarship.  That means that essentially 85% of those students eligible for a high-school education will be finished and will go back to their parent’s homes or start their own homes doing the same work that their parents did.  The main barrier is cost.  Only the top 15% can get the scholarships that they need to go to large towns for A-level.  And there is no guarantee even for these students that they will pass the Senior 6 National exam; which would make them eligible for university.  These rural kids, even the best and brightest don’t have a fighting chance competing with students from private schools in the larger towns.


Secondary students at a new World Bank funded Technical Secondary School in Kibuye, Rwanda
What if there was a High School (A-level) only for the community of Boneza?  What if that school only charged a small amount of tuition in order to create a sense of ownership but that kept education accessible?  What if students learned by “doing” and in the process gained practical vocational skills.  What if these students put those skills and knowledge to work running small school-based enterprises that generate income for the school—covering the costs  and putting additional profits into the savings accounts of students and teachers alike?  Now, see, a student graduates with practical skills, the entrepreneurship know-how to run their own businesses, and a deposit for a micro-loan to get a small business off the ground when they graduate.  A spot at a university is just a bonus.  In the end, students’s have options that will move them forward in several different directions.  

The "muzungu" with John Deux--a particularly
curious young man...just the kind of kid we want
 in KHA!
I’m exhausted from being the center of attention everywhere I go, but grateful for the warm hospitality that is unique to Rwanda and especially the rural country.  I had the privilege of giving the sermon at a community church yesterday and enjoyed worshiping with them (even if I couldn’t understand anything).  John and I took the afternoon off after church and went swimming out on Lake Kivu since the water was so calm and the day so hot.  I decided to swim out to an island about 500 meters away and we “borrowed” an old fisherman’s canoe so I would have a support vehicle in case I cramped up.  It was a fun swim and I made it in about 18 minutes.  Halfway out there the owner of the boat came looking for his fishing vessel but was dismayed that we had taken it out for a tour.  We assured him we’d make it up to him, and did so by covering his costs for the evening so he could just take the night off (it was Sunday after all).  

One more week here and still lots to do.  We have a couple meetings tomorrow with the big wigs at the Ministry of Education and I’m leading some professional development back at the Rwamagana Lutheran school on Wednesday.  If there is any money left we’re going to go out to Akagera National Park after that to see some wild animals.  I have lots of video and audio recording to pour over and many reports to write for the ARM Board of Directors so the work is definitely not over.  I have a 41 hour flight itinerary (with four stops) to look forward to on the way home so I’m sure I’ll be getting some of it done then.  

Having tea and with ARM's pre-school teachers and encouraging
them in their great work with about 275 kiddos in Boneza
I hope you all are doing well out there!  Props to my family especially who’ve been carrying on with life in my absence.  Lynelle, I can’t believe how hard you work taking care of the family.  My sister had a baby while I was in the bush (again), and one of my brothers drove into the middle of nowhere to tow my other brother and family back to Fort Collins after a squirrel chewed through the gas line of their car.  Wow, so much happens in a week. Miss you all so much! 

Thanks for following along, and for your prayers and support!  Much love!

Sawa, sawa.

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