Rwanda’s new school year started on the 25th of September 2023, heralding a very exciting time for the schools that Wilderness Rwanda’s non-profit, Children in the Wilderness (CITW), partners with in the company’s areas of operation. In addition to the current 140 scholarships, 37 new CITW scholarships have been awarded!
This means a total of 177 students are now sponsored for six years of schooling at Bisate Secondary School near Wilderness Bisate, Rwabiharamba Secondary School in the area just outside Akagera National Park, where Wilderness Magashi is located, and Kinihira Secondary School close to Gishwati Forest. However, more of our students are advancing to the higher grades, which means they are moving to another school, and an additional 34 secondary schools are involved.
The scholarships are valued at USD1,800 per student for the duration of the six years. Included in the scholarship are the children’s school fees, lesson and study materials, school meals and school uniforms. This brings the total value of the 177 scholarships to USD318,600 – truly impressive support for the students, their families, and the community at large!
In Rwanda, secondary school years run from Senior 1 to Senior 6, or Grade 1 to Grade 6. When in Senior 3, or S3, all students need to partake in national exams. The results of these exams determine where the student will continue their remaining school years of S4 to S6. Depending on their school results and study direction, many of our scholarship students are now placed in different schools in Rwanda. This means that our CITW students who are continuing in S4, S5 and in future S6, are branching out all over the country, and of course, still flying the CITW flag high. So, besides the seven schools that Wilderness and CITW have partnered with, we now have students in an additional 34 schools all over the country!
The additional 37 students are all starting their first year of secondary school, referred to as S1. The remaining 140 students received their scholarships in previous years, and although they all originally started in S1, they are now spread over S2, S3, S4 and S5. The 2024-25 school year will see the first graduates of our scholarship programme in Rwanda when they complete their schooling in Senior 6.
This coming school year our CITW scholarships will be supporting 30 students at Rwabiharamba Secondary School, 14 new scholarships in Senior 1, and in Senior 2 and Senior 3 a total of 16 students. At Kinihira Secondary School we are sponsoring a total of 35 scholarships, for whom 19 are new students in S1, with 16 students in S2 and S3. Bisate Secondary School has the highest number as this is the fifth year of our scholarship support. A total of 112 students receive the scholarship, with four new students in Senior 1, 37 students in S2 and S3, and the remaining 71 students divided over the aforementioned 34 secondary schools for Senior 4 and Senior 5.
The funding for these 177 scholarships is generously provided by Wilderness Bisate, Sabyinyo and Magashi guests and trade partners.
Our CITW Rwanda team, the various Community Committees, Eco-Club Mentors and the Heads of the schools carefully chose the 37 additional learners on the basis of academic merit and participation in their Eco-Clubs (CITW’s interactive, fun and educational environmental skills programme for primary school children). Now enrolled at their respective secondary schools, these youths will continue their extra-curricular environmental education via our CITW YES (Youth Environmental Stewardship) Clubs. The YES Club is designed for older learners, expanding on the conservation concepts introduced in Eco-Clubs.
In order to retain the scholarship in each grade, learners must maintain good academic results while showing dedication, motivation and good behaviour. CITW & Community Manager for Wilderness Rwanda, Aline Umutoni, monitors the progress of each learner on a regular basis.
“We keep records of all school results, have regular meetings with the schools and the teachers, and I keep in contact with all 177 students in our scholarship programme. In this way, we can ensure that all of them are doing well, and stay motivated to perform in the best possible way. If there are any problems at home, with school supplies or their study results, I will notice this early on, and the CITW team can provide extra support if required. It is fantastic that so many of our students are progressing in their secondary studies. I cannot wait for our first students to graduate during the next school year of 2024-25”, says a proud Aline.
In her role as Operations Manager for Rwanda, Ingrid Baas is ultimately responsible for all CITW and Community projects in the country. “We are very grateful for our donors’ generosity. Some of them have supported the CITW programme in Rwanda since we launched our first Eco-Club in 2018, and are still committed to helping”, she adds. “Other donors have visited Wilderness Bisate, Sabyinyo or Magashi more recently, and after learning about the programme, were inspired to support it. What started as a small programme with just eight CITW scholarships has grown substantially to 177 over a period of five years. This is our commitment, not only to the children, but also to the families and community at large, as we have realised that the impact is huge in the families and the villages that the children are from. These families have limited means, which they can now use for other purposes while their child’s education is secured. The CITW scholarship programme supports our Wilderness Impact ‘Educate’ pillar just as much as it supports the ‘Empower’ pillar in the villages”.
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