Girls' School in Itombwe
The progress on our Girls’ School is generating a lot of excitement in the region. Kinyama, the manager of our Itombwe center, put the impact of this new school into perspective:
“There are so many unexpected benefits from the project. In a meeting with many parents of students who intend to study at this school, one of the mothers – an elder of 60 years – requested that we also hold a program for adult literacy there. She said it is their chance to finally get what they missed a long time ago - learning to read and write. Others want to move from where they currently live and build a city around the new school. Imagine!”
Neema has envisioned this school as a place where girls can stay in school, like she did. The girls who graduate from this school will be the reality of the future that Neema has been working to create for her people.
This school will address the critical and unanswered need of ensuring an educated female populace in the area. As Neema sees it, education is the most crucial element in her main goal of changing the paradigm in the region for women and their communities.
In Itombwe, boys can go anywhere for school. They have many options. But girls need a school in their local area for safety and security reasons. Girls also fulfill roles in their families that would prevent a father from sending his daughter to study farther away. Her parents expect her home and working when she is out of school for the day.
In August of 2017, we broke ground on this new all-girls school near the Itombwe Center. We’ve made a lot of progress since then! Construction thus far has been made possible thanks to a generous grant from the GO Campaign. The wonderful people at the GO Campaign are heroes to us, and we can’t thank them enough.
We are fundraising to complete the last phase of construction. We hope to complete construction within the next six months and open its doors for the new school year starting September 1, 2018!
Despite the challenges of building in such a remote area, the construction has gone smoothly so far. We have been able to source materials like rock, sand, bricks and wood locally – everything else (cement, rebar, roofing material) has to be transported from Bukavu. There is no real road between Bukavu and Itombwe, so the journey – which would take only one day on a paved road – can take up to a week. Drivers and passengers often have to get out and dig the road as they go, push the vehicle through rough patches, and walk for long stretches of the journey. All of the skilled laborers for the project also come from Bukavu. That means that we are housing them at our Itombwe center throughout construction! But the difference that this new school will mean in the lives of its students make it well worth the challenges.
The girls of Neema’s home village, and the girls who have joined themselves to the Maman Shujaa Center, understand the transformative power of education. And they understand that women are the fabric of society. Their hope goes beyond themselves. Their hope extends into the lives of their communities and beyond. They want to escape the archaic cultural paradigm as Neema escaped, to find a life of possibility and purpose.
Just as Neema’s dreams and vision have far exceeded what anyone would have ever imagined for her when she was a girl, we believe that the possibilities that these girls dream up will far exceed our expectations. Their insights into the problems that they face, their resourcefulness and creativity in imagining solutions, go far beyond the conventional wisdom for addressing gender equality and conflict resolution. We can’t wait to see their visions unfold!