School desks for Christmas

[google-map-sc width=”200″ height=”200″ margin=”10″ align=”left”]I wrote a profile about my friend Claude Nikondeha last February. Now, Claude and his Amahoro Africa team have found a special way for people to make a difference in the lives of kids in Burundi. Here are some slightly edited excerpts from an email I got from Claude this week:

“We went to Bubanza, Burundi, in early October…In a community with more than 3,000 school-age children, there was one classroom, one teacher, 16 students. The structure itself was poor. The room was just that – a room with no desks, scant supplies and a makeshift chalkboard. The children sat on stools or on the floor while their teacher, Mr. Terence, tried his best to fulfill his vocation as a teacher.

A classroom in Bubanza, Burundi. (Communities of Hope)

The truth that most development professionals know is that sometimes education is not a priority for people who are financially poor. Often parents have not gone to school and so they do not fully grasp the importance. In the case of some, their attempt at schooling was fraught with ridicule and hardship. There is another truth in operation – there is much work to be done and children must carry their load at an early age. They help fetching the water, a task that takes hours each day. They watch younger siblings while parents try to find work. They serve the local widows who have no support. Given the great need for everyone to share in the work, parents are reluctant to send their children to school if the benefit is in doubt and the immediate result is more chores for the other family members. Education takes a back seat to the more pressing needs of survival.

However, we know that education is the road out of poverty. So our dream for Bubanza includes education.”

A week later, Claude was driving to Bubanza when something outside a shop on the side of the road caught his eye – a desk! He stopped and learned there were nine more in the back of the shop. He bought all 10 for Mr. Terence and his students in Bubanza.

Imagine the scene at the school when the desks arrived! The kids had never seen real school desks. Enrollment tripled in a matter of days, and there are now more than 1,400 kids on the school’s waiting list. There’s more. As Claude wrote:

Desks arriving in Bubanza. (Communities of Hope)

“Parents have begun building more classrooms on their own initiative because they want their children to sit in real desks with real teachers and learn. The parents of Bubanza, once uninterested in education, had a change of heart. Because sometimes parents see a delivery of desks as a sign of hope. They see friends and desks and begin to believe that something is changing and that they can dare to hope. Sending a child to school is brave. Sending a child to school says you believe in that child’s future. Sending a child to school says things are getting better at home. Sending a child to school – or thousands – says a community’s sails are filled with hope!”

In order to open two new classrooms with two teachers in Bubanza in January, Amahoro needs 70 school desks. A well-constructed desk that seats two students costs $50. Amahoro’s Christmas wish is for those desks.

If you’d like to donate one or more of them, click here.

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