Helping educate the Batwa in Rwanda

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The school to untie Batwa indigenous people from the extreme poverty.

Few educated people from Batwa people reveal importance of education to untie from the vicious circle of poverty. In his testimony, Richard Ntakirutimana, as only first and only Mutwa that holds Master’s degree in Rwanda among 40 Batwa graduated students, emphasizes the impact of educating Batwa: “Look at me; I am now a self reliant man because I am educated.’’ When a person is educated, he/she can able to fight for his rights and advocate for his community as I do, he/she can compete at the job market and get a high waged employment and earn a living; the educated people are developed ones. Let’s strengthen the education of indigenous Batwa children by supporting a project that aims to buy the land for nursery school that can turn into primary and secondary school, so that they develop themselves”.

The population number of Batwa estimates 25,000 to 30,000 people out of 12 million of Rwandan population, the Twa face unique challenges and uncertainties related to socioeconomic deprivation, high unemployment and underemployment, social discrimination, and acute political marginalization. The Batwa are believed to be the original inhabitants of the Great Lakes of Central Africa. The equatorial forests were their homelands, providing them with sustenance, medicine and sacred sites. Over the course of several decades, the Batwa were gradually evicted from their traditional lands owing to a combination of deforestation initiatives, and conservation in the name of developmentwithout consultation, compensation or adequate remuneration. These communities were integrated into Rwandan society at the lowest level, forced to adapt a sedentary way of life with inadequate state support and few, if any, resources.

Over 99 per cent of indigenous Batwa adults never went to school and still now, many of their children do not go to school because of extremely poverty and ignorance in their families.In 2006, only 28% of indigenous children attended primary school, compared to 88% of other Rwandans.The recent number indicates that there are only about 42 Batwa pursuing university degrees, 80 in secondary school and 140 attending primary school.

Even though in Rwanda we have “education for all programs”, the indigenous people are still facing barriers to receiving education. Many of their children cannot afford uniforms or school supplies. Additionally, within the classroom, they face discrimination and stigma from their classmates. Most children from indigenous families live in poor health and this result in inability to compete with others academically. Because the most children from indigenous families do not benefit from universal education in the same way as most Rwanda, they do not have the educational background necessary for many jobs that would increase their standard of living and social capital, thus their extreme poverty and they continue to be viewed as primitive and unclean, as separate from the rest of the Rwandans.

AIMPO (African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organisation) needs to raise $10,000 to buy land for a school for Batwa children in Rwanda and I am writing on their behalf. The Japanese embassy in Kigali is willing to finance and build a school if land can be obtained. AIMPO is dedicated to the improvement of the lives of the indigenous Batwa people – an ethnic group living in the Great Lakes region.

Join others around the world in supporting this gofundme campaign.

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Cover photo by Dr. Alan Goodall

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