When planning to start a secondary school in Kiziba Refugee Camp, Oscar and those around him knew they were going to be doing a lot of work with very little. In the early days of the school they had no textbooks of their own and would have to send teachers to walk fifteen kilometers to another school to borrow books. And a few weeks later the teachers would have to make the trek again to return the books, having taught and taken what notes they could in that time. These trips took a lot of time from their other duties and something needed to change.
Through the help of International Teams and donors inspired by the school leaders’ initiative, the Kiziba Community Library now hosts the required textbooks and literature for secondary schools in Rwanda. The teachers don’t have to walk many kilometers, just through the camp. The students likewise now have an abundance of school materials at their fingertips, accessing needed resources to help with their studying and understanding. But the library doesn’t just have textbooks for the secondary school. With thousands of donated books, including various educational materials, a hefty non-fiction section, and additional pieces of great literature in multiple languages, the library offers the students and the teachers of Kiziba High School (KHS) a place to greatly expand their learning outside of school. And these resources are indeed adding something good to the community.
Robbie, a team member from iTeams USA, got to see this student growth for himself. Robbie occasionally taught on various topics during the Reading Workshop, a twice-weekly time for the secondary students to study at the library. After the beginning of the school year Robbie taught on one of the novels from the school curriculum. There was little engagement from the students and Robbie left feeling a little deflated. There are a lot of important ideas in that book, and he felt that very little of it was picked up by the students. But in October he taught again on a different book and was amazed at the level of participation from the students, the competency in reading, and the ability of several students to see through the author’s words to the deeper meanings. It was like teaching a completely different group of students, which, in a sense, was exactly the case. The students continue to learn, to grow, to become the kinds of people who understand well the world around them and know how to utilize their increasing knowledge. In the words of Oscar, the library “has come as part of the solution to the problem of education” in the camp. And with better education comes the potential for a brighter future for whole communities.
(Note: The books mentioned above are Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah. These books are outstanding examples of African literature and Robbie highly recommends both.)