[two_third]In June, I had the opportunity to visit one of the 48 public schools benefiting from Wellspring’s work in Kigali’s Gasabo District. A rural school, Mbandazi is situated just over half an hour outside of bustling Kigali, down a bumpy, dirt road lined with small concrete buildings. The primary school is small, five or so rectangular brick buildings in a “U” shape. As soon as our group exited the truck outside the schoolyard, we could hear the voices of students, reciting in unison whatever it was their teacher had asked of them.
We were greeted by the Headmistress and ushered into her small office. She welcomed us warmly and told us a bit about the school. In the three short years Mbandazi had been part of Wellspring’s School Development Program, it had grown leaps and bounds. The Deputy Head Teacher joined us shortly after and shared with us his dreams of seeing Mbandazi, once a poor, ill-equipped school with few of the students moving onto secondary school, become the top school in the district, setting an example for other rural schools. Only a small portion of the school’s teachers are directly trained by Wellspring, but those teachers are so excited about what they have learned that they actively share with their colleagues, helping them to become better equipped teachers as well.
The head of the Parent-Teacher Committee joined us in the headmistress’s office and shared with us a story of how the relationship between parents and the teachers at Mbandazi had drastically changed since Wellspring began working with them. He told us that, prior to Wellspring’s involvement in the school, parents only ever came to the school to complain. They did not get along with the teachers and only wanted to talk to them when they were angry about something. But Wellspring’s work had taught the parents of the community and the teachers to work together for the good of the children, and the parents began getting more involved in the school. Recently, the headmistress had requested a soccer field be built on the school property so that the students would have somewhere to play. After their request had been ignored for long enough, the teachers invited the student’s parents to the school to help them build the soccer field themselves. Eight hundred previously hostile parents showed up to help that day. The children now have a beautiful soccer field to play on at lunch and after school. But the parents did not stop there. Together with the teachers, they have started another project. In the corner of the school property stands a new school building in progress. United by their passion for Mbandazi’s 1,424 students, teachers and parents have worked side by side to expand the school.
The change in the school since working with Wellspring is tangible. Prior to Wellspring’s involvement, only one Primary 6 student each year passed the national exams and moved on to Secondary School. Last year, not only did the majority of students pass and move on to secondary school, in fact last year, only three students did not, but also teachers’, students’ and parents’ hearts are being changed, relationships are being built, and, as a result, so are soccer fields and school buildings.[/two_third]
Mbandazi Primary School
Mbandazi is a K-6 public school with 21 teachers and 1678 students, and is located in a rural area on the outskirts of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. It is a poor community in which most families are subsistence farmers. In spite of the many challenges faced at Mbandazi – such as overcrowded classrooms, poverty and hunger, and the alcoholism that is prevalent in many students’ homes – we are seeing amazing changes take place.