March 19, 2015
Dinner with Friends
For all of us who spend time on the Maranyundo Campus, leaving and saying goodbye is always hard. For me, as a teacher, it is hard to leave a place called school that is so clearly focused on learning and on the relationships among teachers, students and administrators that make the learning not just possible but meaningful, rewarding. For anyone who comes to campus, the warm and genuine welcome that the Benebikiras extend to visitors makes one so comfortable here. It is a place where friendship and productive partnerships are able to grow.
So on Thursday afternoon, as we prepared to leave for meetings in Kigali before flying home on Friday, it was nice to know that Jen had planned a dinner at India Kazanah in the city for new and old friends of the Maranyundo Project. Jen had invited people who have been encouraging and supportive of the Maranyundo Initiative from its earliest days. Former mayor of Nyamata, Gaspard Munsonera, (an admirer of Mayor Menino), was mayor when the Maranyundo School was planned for the location in Nyamata that had been an encampment of poverty and suffering. It is important for educators to consider how important the role of mayor is in supporting a vision for schools; we sometimes do not realize how much takes place behind the scenes in order to bring projects like the Maranyundo school to reality. His wife, Vivienne, a member of the Parent Advisory Board also came.
Architect Straton and his wife Emme Uwizymana joined us; Straton is still telling his wife about the Tufts Symposium in December and how much he and his daughter, Doris, learned there. Two of the headmasters whom we met with this week attended: Advisory Board member Martin, headmaster of the Lycee de Kigali, and Principal Martine who has become a great admirer of Sr. Juvenal and her commitment to girls education. Brother Straton who has been a valued mentor and advisor from the beginning of the school came to dinner along with two of his Marist brothers who teach at Byimana School for Science. Jen also invited Chris and Jen Hedrick. Chris is the CEO of Kepler University, a program that is providing competency based programs for students through on-line and hybrid models. Originally from the Seattle area, he and his wife have been working in Senegal before coming to Rwanda. Jen Hedrick is head of the Peace Corps programs in Rwanda, focused particularly on providing tutors English and literacy for Rwandan schools. And of course, Sr. Juvenal, Sr. Josee and Sr. Constance, the bursar of the school and Javier joined us.
Jen welcomed us all to the table and described how meaningful it was to be able to be among people who had encouraged and supported the development of the Maranyundo Girls School from its beginnings. She described how gratifying it was to share the story with new friends who are also dedicated to ensuring education excellence for girls in Rwanda. It was such a pleasure to sit at table and enjoy good food and convivial conversation with people who are so supportive of the education enterprise yet see that enterprise from so many different vantage points. It is a reminder of how complex education is and how many different kinds of supports it needs to be effective at the point of “delivery”…in classrooms with teachers and students. At table were people like Headmaster Martin, Brother Straton, the Benebikirka sisters who provided a vision for the school with inspiration from Senator Aloisia Inuymba. Political support and parent support were represented as well as the architect whose careful attention and respect for the buildings and classroom spaces is apparent throughout the campus.
To have a school that supports student learning, all these constituencies are important. In this small landlocked country in Africa, those of us from Boston are learning anew how collaborative we all must be to ensure that schools work for students and their teachers. In the end, each school has a narrative that begins with a belief that learning is essential for progress, for our future(s) and builds on the energy and commitment of community. Bits of that narrative are composed every day, in each and every classroom, each and every school. When the narrative includes careful listening, genuine exchange of ideas and direct conversation, the collaboration is as gratofying and comfortable as a good dinner with friends.