Every Child Deserves An Education
While driving through the winding red-dirt roads of Rwanda’s Rubavu district, a simple glance out of the window will reveal a beautiful, yet heartbreaking sight. Children are everywhere. Some are playing with sticks by the road, laughing as they chase after their friends. Older girls have younger siblings tucked into fabric on their backs, looking after them while their parents are busy. Kids are in the fields, helping harvest the season’s crops. But during a school day, these children shouldn’t be out in the fields or playing by the road. They should be in a classroom, learning verb tenses or scribbling math problems on the chalkboard. They should be receiving an education that will empower them for the future and equip them to break the cycle of poverty that has been thrust upon them.
So why aren’t they in school?
School dropout rates are extremely high in Rubavu. Our initial findings have determined that significantly fewer children are completing a basic primary education than the average rate in Rwanda. That statistic is even lower when it applied solely to the girls, who are the victims of traditional mindsets in this region, being consistently overlooked in favour of their brothers. Many tragic consequences come from this, such as grinding poverty, gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, and increased rates of teen pregnancy and childhood mortality.
But these kids aren’t just statistics. They are real children with real dreams. They deserve an education that sees them treated with dignity and worth, one that will help them to fulfil their God-given potential, no matter their circumstances.
Wellspring wants to see this happen, and we know that change is possible.
One of the key parts of Wellspring’s School Development Program is our Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) training, which focuses on mobilizing parents and empowering them to bring about change through their own skills and talents. Our program places an emphasis on a parent’s role and responsibility in their child’s education. Before talking with our trainers and community connectors, many parents don’t realize that they should be investing in their child’s education. Many of them didn’t complete their schooling themselves, and thus don’t understand the importance of their child receiving an education. Oftentimes, parents will pull their kids out of school after a year or two so they can look after younger siblings or help in the fields. This is a major part of the issue in Rubavu.
When parents understand their role in their child’s education, true transformation takes place. We’ve seen this time and time again in schools across Gasabo District, such as Gisozi I. A few years ago, Gisozi I struggled with high dropout rates. Kids left their education behind in order to help out their families, and their parents did not realize that this choice in the present would have significant consequences on the child’s future. Using techniques from our ABCD training, the school leadership and community leaders organized a meeting to discuss this issue with parents and make them aware of the importance of a child’s education. Parents were humbled and expressed their gratitude to the school and community leaders who used Wellspring’s training to help their children. Now that they realized going to school was more important for their children than any other chore, families quickly sent their kids back to the classroom. Thanks to this initiative, an incredible two-hundred-and-fifty students are back in school, and the community aspires to have a zero-percent dropout rate.
We believe this can happen in Rubavu as well.
In fact, we’ve already seeing a change. Félicienne is the Head Teacher of Kanyundo Primary, one of the schools that participated in Wellspring’s initial pilot project in Rubavu. Since she started to participate in our training program, she has been leading groups of teachers and students into the community to engage with families who pulled their children out of school. After seeing her do this a few times, students at the school felt moved to start a club, which they called “A Response to a Child”. This club provides a framework for students to participate in community outreach. They are seeking out their peers who have dropped out of school and bringing them back to the classroom. The results of this initiative have been astounding. Kanyundo Primary created a class specifically for students who formerly dropped out so they can encourage support one another through issues in their home life and work together to make up for the time they missed. The students in this class recently began learning how to write and they are eager to continue moving forward in their education. Each one of their stories gives us hope for the children we still see outside of school in the middle of the day.
The situation in Rubavu is critical, and that is why we have committed to a five-year program in the region. We will be working to decrease the excessive dropout rate and to improve the quality of schools in a way that ensures that all children get an education that will change their lives.
Because at Wellspring, we believe that every child has the right to a quality education, no matter their circumstances. That every school can be a vibrant school community that puts children first. And that every child is loved by God and deserves the dignity and respect that Jesus shows all of us.