The longer I am involved in work in Burundi, the more strategic I see the role of education is.
Education is crucial to seeing Burundi transformed, and sadly the old style of learning by rote as taught in the vast majority of schools (with class sizes sometimes over a hundred) simply cannot produce critical thinkers who can creatively contribute to the economy and society as a whole.
In 2008, a kindergarten started across town from us with an intake of 80 little children. It was of such high quality that the parents begged my friends Jesse and Joy Johnson to add on primary, and now years later, a secondary school. It is called the Discovery School. They have currently reached up to seventh grade, and are adding a grade each year. So now there just over 800 children, and it will end up being 1,300 in total. Each day begins and ends with prayer. Each class has a Bible lesson but that doesn’t stop a number of Muslim kids also attending.
The fees are $15/month, which is way too much (hard to believe for outsiders from wealthier countries) for most people, but parents will make whatever sacrifice it takes to get their kids the best education available. Discovery School aims to keep the education as affordable as possible, so chooses to keep the fees down to benefit the maximum number of people. I asked Jesse about the school’s impact on students’ lives, and he said: “Well, it’s not just the kids. Many of the 65 staff, when they started with us, were skinny as can be, only eating one meal a day, and only owning two shirts, but now they’ve filled out and are able to provide for their families.”
Such is the popularity of the school that kids are coming from the other end of the capital. This has meant the need for several busses to ferry them to and fro each day. When the crisis kicked in last year, many fled the country and others were unable to pay, which meant a loss of $17k of unpaid fees. Still the school is financially surviving, amazingly, and needing to build new classrooms each year to accommodate the growth. Even when they could easily justify holding onto all their profits, they choose to make monthly contributions to the church-planting efforts of their umbrella organization, the Emmanuel churches, which is so beautiful in the context of such crushing need – because they know they are blessed to be a blessing.
So this summer, they’re using their remaining profits towards building more classrooms, but urgently need funds for another bus. Their current busses are 36-seaters and take 90 kids at a time! Laws are applied differently out here, so it is acceptable but not ideal! The busses pay for themselves in two years, so the idea of buying – rather than hiring one or doing double trips which will take so long and make kids late for school – is a no-brainer.
Can anyone help by pledging towards the $20k needed for a reasonable second-hand bus? Discovery School is a huge success story, all the more as it is a going financial venture in the poorest country in the world and is more than surviving in the midst of the direst of economic situations. Please dig deep if you believe in the value of education. 800 kids every day are being taught in a loving empowering environment, and many of them will end up as key leaders and influencers in the future in Burundi. A new bus is critical to the smooth-running of the coming academic year.
It’s another beautiful story in the midst of all the brokenness we’re living in. If you can help, please donate here, with whatever contribution (large or small) to help keep the show on the road (and specify ‘for Discovery School’). Thanks so much!