On Sunday, we traveled to Gisenyi to pick up a Joslyn, a new student, from her home and take her to the Gashora Academy for the first time. Gisenyi is a town on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which lies among daunting volcanoes and the beautiful shores of Lake Kivu. Despite the continued upheaval in the DRC, this Rwandan town is peaceful and thriving.
Here in Rwanda, educational opportunities are determined by a single national exam. Each year 28,000 Rwandan students take the National Secondary Education Ordinary Level Test at the end of 9th grade. Admission to Secondary School is very competitive; fewer than 13,000 students can be admitted into the 734 secondary schools. The scores on this exam determine if a student can continue on to secondary school.
In the case the Gashora Girls’ Academy, phone calls are made to girls with high test scores and offered a spot in the school. They then have very little time to make a decision to leave their families behind and travel to Gashora, as often secondary school starts less than a week after they know their scores.
We arrived just in time to see Joslyn packing up the last of her belongings in her modest room. Unsure of the next time they would see her (Gashora is at least four hours away on the DRC/Burundi border) her family hovered as she prepared for the adventure.
Joslyn’s older sister even spoke English, and promptly asked if we could be Facebook friends and if I liked Chris Brown – the last thing I expected in rural Rwanda! At 18, her sister was the oldest of six, and the newest family addition was barely 6 months old. While the mentality of having many children to run the family farm is slowly changing here, many families still have large numbers of children.
After Joslyn said goodbye to her family and friends we were off for the long drive to Gashora. All 90 new girls were arriving for the first time, and the small campus was bustling. The girls are some of the more intelligent young women in the country, and they all have huge dreams to be doctors, engineers, and political leaders. Rwanda Girls’ Initiative is making a difference in the entire country by giving young girls the hope and tools they need to be successful!