There is no such thing as free education in Rwanda. There are many families who cannot afford to send their children to primary school and children who are that fortunate find themselves competing with peers from families who have been able to afford the more expensive nursery education. Even so, in European terms, primary education is not expensive. £25 will send a child to school for a year.
Last year, individuals from Loanhead Parish Church provided sponsorship for three young children to go to primary school. Ange, Daniel and Jackson are now starting their second year at school in P2 class.
This year, more people at Loanhead have provided school sponsorship and now twelve children will be heading off to classes with a new school uniform and an armful of jotters. Finding the uniforms is easy. Every market has an army of women with sewing machines churning out shirts, shorts and skirts in the local school colours.
Laying hands on jotters for a dozen children takes a bit more effort. The school requirements are for each child to present themselves with fourteen 96-page books in a combination of lined and squared paper. This needed a trip to the local shops and an intense conversation in Kinyarwanda with the owner of one of the papitiere establishments that can be found almost anywhere. These places are doing a roaring trade at the moment supplying books, pens and paper to the entire Rwandan education system. For 10p they will also provide photocopies from dusty and barely-maintained Xerox machines.
So armed with a large box of jotters and school-standard pens which had been another bulk purchase a few days ago, we were pleased to be able to present the Loanhead children with all they need to go to school. The children were very pleased, especially as we had been able to find a big bag of sweets to go round as well.
Without sponsorship, none of these children would be attending school. Their families typically have no regular income if any. Marie-Therese Millindi, with her Saturday church has been able to identify the most needy children for us. Thanks to the people at Loanhead, these children have been given a start in life that may lead to future employment and hopefully a more comfortable life than that endured by their parents.