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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Solar Cooker Workshop in Ghana

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by Paula Ann Winchester

I left the USA the day after Thanksgiving and landed in Accra, Ghana, at 8 pm the next day.  As hundreds of folks mobbed the baggage conveyor belt, I anxiously waited for my 100# of solar cooker equipment in two suitcases.  I believe my two suitcases were the last two to arrive.  What torture!

The workshop was held on December 1, 2015 at 10 am with 5 representatives from the Bremen Essiam village of 27,000, 3 highly educated representatives from small city of coastal Elmina, several men from the neighboring farming community, as well as, three men from the radio and television stations. My explanations were interpreted for the group by Jael, a very poised and helpful young lady.  I could immediately tell that those who just minutes before who were unsmiling and not comprehending began to warm up by hearing the information in their native tongue.

Earlier before we started, I had set out in the sun a silver pot with water, a black pot with same amount of water, and another black pot with water, but this time placed  inside a turkey roasting bag and tied shut. During our discussion we moved from the shaded porch out into the sun to feel the difference in the pots to learn first-hand and very quickly which was the hottest. The black pot in the turkey roasting bag, gifted to my workshop by Liberty Bag Co. of California, was HANDS DOWN the hot HOT winner.

Afterwards I set up one solar cookit (from Solar Cookers International in Sacramento, CA) with 3 small stones.  I placed the water filled black pot wrapped in a turkey roasting bag on the stones in the solar cookit.  Inside was a WAPI, a tiny gadget that would indicate that the water (or milk) had reached a temperature high enough to pasteurize it, making it safe to drink. The 2nd solar cookit was set up in a similar manner but this black pot would cook rice.

Back to the shady porch.  We then had each person tell the group something they had learned. Questions were asked: can you fry with these? No.  How long will a solar cooker last?  The Cookit solar cooker will last only if you take very good care of it. What will we do with our silver shiny pots?  Paint them black on the outside top and bottom. Over and over we stressed that cooking with the sun, a FREE energy source, would save them money, improve their family’s health, save them time and worry, and preserve the environment.  You could see the wheels beginning to turn and their eyes beginning to glow.

Photos were taken. Snacks and cold drinking water was provided.  The men from the radio and tv stations interviewed participants. Two hours had quickly slipped by.  It was time to remove the hot black pots from the solar cookits and their bags.  Yes, the WAPI indicated that the water had gotten hot enough to pasteurized it.  But when I carefully opened the pot with the rice, did I feel their excitement explode.  They said, “a miracle had happened!” Bowls were filled with the rice for tasting and comments.  Needed salt.  It wasn’t burned on the bottom, which happened in their pots on charcoal fires (did you know it takes 7 lbs. of wood to make 1 lb. of charcoal?).  I learned that  Ghanaians prefer their rice cooked dryer that my  performance produced that day. There was ecstasy in the air! A kind of giddiness of pure delight. It was very clear what they could do with a simple solar cooker made just of cardboard with a shiny surface.

By that afternoon, we were hearing from folks in Elmina of the “miracle that happened at the Davies Villa Resort” where the workshop had been held.  Grace, from the Bremen Essiam village of 27,000 and hand selected by the chief to attend, said she felt she had been to the university that day.

Before receiving their gift of a solar cooker, WAPI, two turkey roasting bags, black sock (for cooking corn on the cob), and a pair of scissors or a box cutter,  they each had to stand and pledge a commitment to teach others of what they had learned and to work to make more simple solar cookits for those thousands who were yet ignorant of this “miracle”.  Within days, the word had spread.  The news had travelled so fast that I thought surely drums must have been used to send out the message!  The need is so great…and they were ready to take on that responsibility and ownership.  I was just the spark that set their world on fire by using the FREE sunlight so abundant in equatorial Africa.

 

Paula Winchester Enterprises, LLC
pwe@paulawinchester.com