A quick Google search will reveal that Rwanda has been recognized and heralded as a “success story in curbing COVID-19.” That they’ve enacted a “secret weapon of trust” to help stop the virus from spreading. Headlines spell out how the rest of the world would do well to learn a few lessons from Rwanda, “a leader in healthcare in East Africa,” in how to prevent and contain the novel coronavirus that shut down the world 16 months ago. But even as one of the early reopeners, Rwanda experienced another nationwide lockdown ending on September 1. Vaccines are scarce, and the country set an ambitious goal of 60 percent of their population vaccinated by 2022–a full year after much of the Western world, including the United States, has achieved their vaccination goals. Schools are still being recommended to stay closed while many businesses have been required to shut their doors.
Given that much of the school year has been interrupted, fragmented, and lost for Rwanda and students worldwide, Edify’s growth this year has been nothing short of a surprise. But it can also be described as proprietors needing support, encouragement, and resources now more than ever. In Rwanda, the overwhelming need has meant 400 new partner schools have joined Edify since October.
Christian Transformation and Training Officers (CTTOs) logged countless miles to visit districts in regions around Rwanda between lockdown restrictions. They gathered proprietors and teachers for information sessions and arranged meetings with Edify’s microfinance partner Goshen Finance. “In Kigali, we had to go hunt for schools. They were far and wide, and we did one-on-one school visits with proprietors and leaders. Proprietor after proprietor shared, ‘We’ve been waiting for people like you to come and support us, how can we be part of your program?’” tells Jackie Mutoni, Rwanda CTTO. Now, in their second lockdown, Jackie shares, “We’re able to continue to give them support in this second lockdown. They keep saying, ‘You found us at the right time.’”
It hasn’t been an easy road for our veteran partner schools either. “When schools were allowed to reopen, it was hard for them to meet the government requirements. There were measures put in place for reopening, and the government would come and perform a visit. If you didn’t meet the requirements, you couldn’t reopen,” Jackie says. With the help of Edify’s Recovery Fund, schools were able to meet the necessary regulations. They could now install handwashing stations, pay teachers their salaries, and stay open. Schools could also now afford to build additional structures and classrooms to socially distance learners, like at Sana Academy, where they could construct three new classrooms. In Rwanda, out of the 50 Recovery Fund loans, 41% were used for construction purposes, while 29% were used to pay salaries. “The Recovery Fund helped motivate teachers to come back and stay with low-fee independent schools instead of leaving for government-run schools. They could also purchase new materials for learners,” tells Jackie.
But the Recovery Loans didn’t only help meet the pressing needs of partner schools. It also sparked growth in schools’ student bodies. At Brilliant School, access to affordable loan capital and the Recovery Fund allowed them to grow their student body from 100 to 370 because of better learning facilities. While Opapep School, with a Recovery Fund loan of 2.5M Francs ($2,490USD), was able to construct roofs on three classrooms, accommodating 115 students. They’ve increased enrollment from 519 to 636 students.
Jackie shares, “A lot of schools didn’t have adequate structures for distancing or finished classroom construction. Because of the Recovery Fund, our partner schools were able to both provide socially distanced education and, as a result, were able to welcome in more students.”
Tuition fees were also a significant reason for the dramatic increase in student body sizes for many partner schools.
“Many of Edify’s partner schools didn’t increase their tuition fees. However, the government-run schools did. So many families left the public schools and came to low-fee independent schools. It was hard for proprietors not to increase tuition because they were hurting too. But they decided not to raise the fees because of their commitment to their community and parents,” tells Jackie.
Even as East Africa continues to grapple with rising cases and another wave of restrictive lockdowns, our partner schools keep building pathways to education for their communities. “You found us at the right time,” proprietors tell us. With partners like Goshen Finance and committed field staff like Jackie and the Rwanda Team, we’re finding proprietors at the right time so they can improve, expand, and reach more students with a quality, Christ-centered education. Four hundred new partner schools are just the beginning of a flourishing Rwanda.