Over a hundred Twa children are attending primary school for the first time in their lives, thanks to a new program supported by Inshuti Mu Buzima (IMB), PIH’s sister organization in Rwanda. Nearly all of the children are the first in their families to receive any type of formal education.
“This is a thing that the community never thought would happen,” said Léonce Byimana, a program coordinator for IMB.
The Twa, or pygmy people, are a minority group in eastern and central Africa. As with other indigenous peoples around the world, the Twa have faced many challenges over the past century. Today, their communities suffer some of the worst development indicators in the region. Twa consistently lack access to health services, education, housing, and adequate nutrition. Their average life expectancy is less than 30 years.
To combat these challenges, IMB is partnering with the Government of Rwanda in the rural northern Burera District to break the cycle of poverty and disease by providing access to education. The new project will provide 102 Twa children—58 girls and 44 boys—with tuition money, school uniforms, shoes, notebooks, food, and other necessary fees.
Since starting classes this year, the students have been thriving, added Léonce. “Their teachers tell us that they are performing very well,” he said. “Hopefully they will make their families proud. Our goal is that one day [these students] will begin moving their families away from situations of extreme poverty and hunger.”
“[IMB] thanks everybody who helped get these students enrolled in school, especially the local authorities who increasingly support the pygmy community and the primary school teachers who are working with the students,” added Léonce.
The school program is just one element of IMB’s work to support the Twa community in Burera. IMB has also supplied the communities with cows to provide milk to malnourished children. Additionally, this year the organization will provide a full package of support to this community, including health insurance, employment opportunities, and agricultural support. IMB will also replace each of the community’s leaky grass-roofed huts with durable tin-roofed houses through a joint project with the Government of Rwanda. Watch a video about this project.