Will She Graduate?

Kevin Dixon, Wellspring CEO

By Kevin Dixon
Wellspring’s CEO

On a recent visit to Rwanda, I enjoyed witnessing the questions and answers exchanged between a teacher and his students at a rural primary school constructed of red clay bricks. Just a couple of dusty fields lie between the school and the border that separates Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some of the students’ parents walk before dawn across the border from their homes in Rwanda to sell produce, handicrafts, or used goods at informal markets in the Congo. They have no authorization to be there, and their children wonder if their parents will come home at the end of the school day or be detained by officials at the border.

One girl in the classroom, maybe 12 years old, looked a bit more like a woman than some of the other kids. Frayed cuffs and patched elbows on her school uniform did not conceal the priceless intelligence visible in her eyes. But she was at a particularly vulnerable age. Cultural bias against girls is just the beginning of it. Budding women like her are susceptible to early school dropout, forced marriage, unwanted pregnancy, and sexual exploitation. As she raised her hand to respond to the teacher’s next question, the shadow of a dark thought crossed my mind—“What will become of her?” Her odds of graduating secondary school are not as high as for boys.

Research from the World Bank dating back to 2005 notes two government policy decisions most critical for moving a nation from poverty toward prosperity: rule of law and quality education. Of course, other factors are important too. But, Wellspring’s focus on improving the quality of education at the primary level has been how we have contributed to social improvement in Rwanda and to enhancing the life of the girl I noticed at that school.

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) motivated nations worldwide to make primary education to Grade 6 compulsory. The Sub-Saharan region where Rwanda lies made the greatest progress among all developing regions – from 52% in 1990, up to 78% primary school enrolment in 2012, but large disparities still remain.

The Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) that succeeded the MDGs have identified the continued importance of quality education (SDG 4) but emphasize an increased focus on pre-primary and secondary education. Gender equality is a crucial aspect in education, so SDG 4 tracks educational participation and proficiency in math and reading by gender.

Wellspring affirms the targets expressed in SDG 4. In fact, they inform our vision for the near future:

  • To work in all 30 districts of Rwanda
  • To expand beyond Rwanda’s borders beginning in the Rakai District of Uganda
  • To use digital technology to expand our reach and accessibility to teachers and parents in remote areas without compromising the quality of our training
  • In all of the above, to respond to the needs of girls and boys – and especially poor girls who are vulnerable to forced marriage, unwanted pregnancy, sexual exploitation

Pilot projects on all four aspects of this vision are actively moving Wellspring toward these new frontiers. And the knowledge that Wellspring is achieving what we believe to be a God-given mission helped quickly dispel the dark thought that crossed my mind during my visit to the rural classroom. It was replaced by the thought, “Thanks be to God there are people who care enough to support the work of improving the quality of education for a girl like her.” With this loving support, she may very well graduate from higher education and enjoy a good quality of life.

There are many good reasons to support Wellspring’s work. I believe the top five are these:

  • Impact: Wellspring’s focus on education is one of the best ways to move a developing nation toward prosperity. 
  • Experience: Wellspring has a proven track record of excellence over almost twenty years.
  • Expertise: Wellspring is a sought-after leader to participate in regional and national conversations and activities to change the future of education in Rwanda and beyond.
  • Sustainable, not Colonial: Wellspring relies on a team of over thirty Rwandan and East African experts in education, leadership, and community development.
  • Character Formation: A quality education is as much about character formation as intellectual development. Wellspring’s training is based on a Christian, values-based education that fosters a good heart and a strong mind.

Personally, I am motivated to support Wellspring’s work on the basis of these five reasons. Equally, I am moved by my encounter with that one girl, and the knowledge that my financial support can help change her life. Thank you for supporting this work, too.

Wellspring is registered as a charitable organization in Canada (#88633 4408 RR0001). Tax receipts are issued at year-end for donations of $20 or more. 

Financial Policy: All monies receipted by The Wellspring Foundation for Education are disbursed according to the policies of the society for the general charitable intent of the organization.