How to Build a School: Itafari by Itafari
You too can build itafari by itafari! Click here to sponsor a brick that will be engraved with your name.
When is a brick not just a brick? When it becomes a powerful symbol of possibility. When the word itafari spoken in Rwanda brings with it awareness: Of hope. Of strength. Of change.
When the Itafari Foundation began in August 2005, we hoped that the Kinyarwanda word for brick (itafari) would be an image that inspired the idea of opportunity – that placed a picture in people’s minds of what was lost, but also what could be gained. That one brick, one itafari, could do nothing. But together, we could help rebuild Rwanda itafari by itafari by itafari. We could help. We could partner. We could work alongside those who knew better than us what Rwanda needed – the people themselves.
As I travel through Rwanda, I speak of Itafari Foundation. When I introduce myself, “nitwa Vicky” (my name is Vicky), there is no recognition except that I am mzungu (white). But when I say I am a part of the Itafari Foundation, there is awareness, remembrance that they have heard of this Itafari Foundation.
And now we begin to find common ground. Not because I am known, but because Itafari is known. That is because our donors give to Itafari and I represent them and their intention to make a difference here in Rwanda.
Today was one of the best days I have ever had in Rwanda. And that’s saying something!
Today we had a ceremony for the ground breaking at Kigali Parents School for the High School that Itafari is helping to build. And what a ceremony it was! You know, we do not do justice to celebrating greatness in the U.S. In Rwanda, when you are honoring an organization, a new beginning, a success, there is a very formal process. And this process was part of what I took part in.
Kigali Parents Primary School began in 1995, one year after the genocide. Two teachers from Uganda whose parents had fled Rwanda in the late 1950s were called to a land that was devastated. Though they had never lived in Rwanda themselves, these two young men wanted to help the people they met. The survivors. And they only knew how to do one thing: teach. They set up their first small school in a brothel where the landlord agreed to give them one of the rooms and started with six children – some of them, the children of the brothel’s prostitutes. These prostitutes were desperate to feed their children, which was why they were willing to degrade themselves in this way.
Charles and Eugene began to teach. Soon they had more than 60 students crowded into that one room, different parts of a chalkboard separated to teach each grade of student.
And they persevered. And the children learned. And they grew their program. And soon took over more rooms in the brothel. Their dream of educating children blossomed. They acquired some land and slowly built the Kigali Parents Primary School (KPPS).
Today, 1500 children attend the highest academically rated elementary school in all of Rwanda! The school is simply amazing. The teachers and children demand excellence of one another. And all strive to serve to better their country and their families.
Itafari is honored to partner with them. Currently the Primary School goes through the sixth grade. After graduating sixth grade, all children in the country are required to take a national test. Kigali Parents School consistently has their students place first and in the top percentile of the nation!
The school is desks and chairs and a blackboard and students and teachers. The school is hope and possibility and greatness. And it is available to students regardless of the economic status or heritage. Because there is currently no Kigali Parents Secondary School (high school), the children often transfer to less academically rigorous schools and lose the advantage they have gained with their superior education.
At KPPS, the children arrive at 6:45am, work all morning, have about a 90-minute lunch, return to school and work until 5:00 pm. They are learning English, French, and Kinyarwanda. They are beautiful, well-behaved, smart kids. They wear a uniform that makes them all equal. You cannot tell a child who has a parent in the Government Cabinet, from the child who is there on a scholarship. They are the future of Rwanda. And they need a rigorous high school education that prepares them for University.
At the ceremony, Itafari presented our first donation toward the project we have been working on for over a year: building the new school. The ceremony took place at the future site of the school itself – nearby, a huge bulldozer was ready to clear the land. The dream has begun.
The children danced and sang – they had even written a song for Itafari. The city and district officials thanked Itafari for partnering with Rwanda in caring for the children. Principal Charles thanked Itafari for helping them realize their dream. The parents of students were there to look on proudly at all they had accomplished and what was possible.
I cried. I was overwhelmed.
Do you ever work so hard to accomplish something that you don’t stop to see what will happen when you begin to reach your goal? That is me and Itafari. As a Board, we are determined to build this school. Our donors hear our request and give. But not enough give specifically for the school.
We only have enough money to clear the land and level it. Next we must build the foundation of the entire school and then build S1 – Secondary 1 – seventh grade – for the KPPS who will be entering seventh grade in January 2008. We need about $190,000 to have Kigali Parents Secondary School (KPSS) open. And then each additional set of classrooms for the next grade will be built. It’s a wonderful way to build a school – as needed. Itafari by itafari by itafari.
Consider giving to this project. You can do so on the website. Every gift of $75 will qualify you for one itafari (brick), which will be placed on the front of the building. We will be selling approximately 2,000 itafari…and the children will remember always that people all over the world believe in them.
The parents at Kigali Parents Primary School will also be participating in this fundraising. This is their school. Their children. But they need our help.
Give on the website or send us a check. Buy amatafari (many bricks)! I will get back with you when I return to get the information on how you would like your name written on your itafari. Can you imagine: building a school itafari by itafari by itafari.