October 28, 2015
Members of the Segal Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization who have funded a portion of the construction completion of the new STEM high school buildings made a site visit to the school this morning. There were four members of the organization who came including the Executive Director from New Jersey. Two of the members were Africans. Dado is from Burundi and Eve is Ugandan. A fourth person , Yvette, was from New York and although she had been in many East African countries, this was her first trip to Rwanda. Bonnie Weiss from Boston also was with the group.
We began with a tour of the school by 5 current students each assigned to one of the visitors. The guides were shy at first. But as the tour proceeded through the dorms, the dining hall, and up to the new building that has classrooms and a computer lab, they became more animated. They talked about their daily schedule, the good food, the study halls at night, the exam schedule. They talked about the “family” structure where every new student is assigned a “mother” and a “grandmother” (S2 and S3 students) to answer their questions in the early weeks of school. By the time the group ended the tour in the current library, guides and visitors seemed like good friends. Yvonne asked her guide about language study. “We take English, Kinyawanda and French. Do you speak French?” Yvonne replied, “I have not taken it in several years…let me see…j’mapelle Yvonne?” “That’s pretty good. Keep trying and you will be very good at speaking French,” encouraged her guide.
After the tour we convened in the Residence for coffee and to share perspectives on the work of the Segal Foundation and the school. Eve began by saying how much had been accomplished in the expansion. “This education model is so needed for African women. The girls are poised, happy, enjoying their studies. Like our guides.” Sister then explained how she chose the guides. She had decided not to choose the “top girls” at the school. Instead she chose girls who were from the local rural area. They arrived at S1 speaking no English and being very shy. “Now that they are finishing S3, they are speaking English well and they are good students who are helpful.” Se went on to explain how these girls and others have been working on community service projects and reporting their learning to their peers. Dado spoke how of the schools he visits, he is most impressed with the education at Maranyundo: “not only are academic standards high, and girls are learning English well, but they are given a “spiritual, community experience that makes the learning an integral part of their outlook on life.”
Then Andy spoke, explaining, “Of the 200 projects we fund, my two favorite projects are the Maranyundo Initiative and Gardens for Health.”
The meeting ended with a discussion of how to preserve the strengths and characteristics of a small school like Maranyundo and yet have a broad impact throughout the East Africa. Daphne announced that 5 projects focusing on girls education in East Africa were beginning discussions of how we could work together and leverage more funding for these projects. To be continued.
We are grateful to Bonnie and Andrew Weiss who have helped the Initiative connect with the Segal Foundation and to the feedback that organizations give to help us continue to grow in understanding of what is needed to sustain high quality girls education in this part of the world. That understanding will inform all of us of how best to educate all our girls around the world.