GIK: Motivating vulnerable children to stay in school

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Fabrine right reads a book with Paul one of her friends.

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Its break time at Cyugaru primary school, 10am, and 13-year old Fabrine Umuhoracyeye is happily playing with her friends. Fabrine is one of the children under World Vision Child Sponsorship Program. Her life has changed due to wearing shoes provided by World Vision through Nyamata Area Development Programme (ADP).

She recalls what she went through before receiving shoes. “I suffered a lot before receiving these shoes. My village being in a stony and a thorny area, I always got hurt by stones and thorns on my way to and from school,” Fabrine says. Sometimes her feet swelled due to injuries caused by thorns, and this would make it difficult for her to walk to the primary school located two kilometres from her house. “Sometimes I would be punished for coming late at school. The swollen feed due to injuries caused mostly by thorns would make it difficult for me to walk” she explains

Fabrine recalls the time she lost one of her toenails when she hit a rock that was hidden beneath the grasses. She was playing hide and seek with her friends.  “I spent days with a swollen foot and I’m sure that could not have happened if I wore shoes at that time,” she explains as she pulls of one of her shoes to show the scar left on her foot by the accident.

Fabrine’s family, like many others in the area, is affected by poverty and the effects of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. She lives at Cyugara cell, Ntarama sector, Nyamata district, about two kms from Nyamata ADP office.  Ntarame was one of the most affected sectors in Rwanda by the 1994 genocide.  A genocide memorial site is located about one kilometre from Fabrine’s house. It contains the remains of 5,000 genocide victims from the area that were killed in a church located in her village during the genocide. The area is also known for seasonal droughts that affect agricultural activities.

 “The shoes are great, they are very comfortable. Sometimes I’m worried they will get old”. Fabrine explains. She removes and keeps the shoes under her bed when she gets home from school. “I wear them only when I’m going to school and on Sunday when I’m going to church.” She explains at home, she puts on her old plastic sandals.

“I like the material in which these shoes are made. I can easily wear them with no stockings and [they] are still comfortable and light,” she joyfully explains as she bends and squeezes the shoe to prove her point. Her favourite game at school is skipping rope. But sometimes she removes the shoes and skips barefooted in fear that they might get torn.

Recently, she was promoted to Grade 3. She was third in her class during the last academic term. “I feel confident and like coming to school because children no-longer laugh at me like they used to,” she says.

Fabrine recalls the time she received the shoes. “I was there, eagerly waiting. I felt like shoes would get finished before I got my pair, I was worried I would not get my size. But I finally did,” she timidly explains but with a smile on her face. “I did not sleep that night. I couldn’t wait going to school in my new shoes. The next day I went to school, so proud and wished every one could look at my new shoes. They even looked better than those of my classmates who used to laugh at me.”

It is her first pair of shoes she has received since she was born. All she had ever owned were very old and torn plastic sandals that belonged to her elder sister.  Her mother gave them to her after they could no-longer fit her elder sister Claudine. They were old and full of patches.  “I preferred going to school barefooted because children would laugh at me more every time they saw me in those ragged plastic sandal,” she says.

Fabrine has four siblings. Three elder sisters and one younger brother. Her mother Esperance Mutuyimana, 35, struggles every day to make ends meet.  She cannot afford to buy shoes for all the five children.  Esperance was abandoned by her husband after they had had five children. “Life was difficult for both of us and he could not take it any longer. He moved to another village in search for jobs and it’s been eight years now. He has never come back. We hear he got married to another woman,” she sadly explains with a shaky voice.

Esperance moved to her mother’s place, an 89-year-old grandmother to her five children. She moved their one year after the departure of her husband. Before moving to her mother’s place, Esperance lived in a small two roomed grass-thatched house with all her five children. They now share a four roomed house that belonged to her late father. Fortunately, due to the Rwandan government’s nine-year basic free education program, four of her children are now in school.  She says living at her mother’s place helps her family to survive. She borrowed a hectare of land that belongs to her mother to grow crops like beans, maize and cassava and also takes care of her mother.  Her family depends entirely on small scale subsistence farming.  Sometimes she has no money to buy household essential like soap and salt. When things get worse financially, Esperance goes door to door looking for part-time jobs. 

Part-time jobs that she occasionally gets include washing clothes for other fairly well-off families and cultivating their garden. “On a lucky day, I earn 1,000 Rwandan Francs ($1.5 US dollars) after digging in one’s garden for three to four hours. I then use that money to buy salt and soap for my household members,” she says. She says that being unemployed and with limited sources of income makes it very difficult to buy shoes for her children. “I thank World Vision and donors for putting two of my children under sponsorship program. It was a great relief. The shoes provided to them have inspired them to love and stay in school. They are intelligent children and are now performing very well. I have nothing to give back to donors but say God bless them”.

According to Emanuel Ndayambaje, one of Fabrine’s teachers, the shoes provided to children by World Vision have improved their performances in schools. Some of the children from poor households previously dropped out of school due to negative comments and insults by children from well-off families. “They sometimes lost concentration and felt small” he said.

Emanuel says that he noticed changes when children from the most vulnerable families received shoes. “They look more confident and focused, no more worried about what their classmate’s comment or thoughts. They have been saved from having the inferiority-complex.” he says. Emanuel commended donors for providing shoes which are indirectly improving the performance of children from most vulnerable households.

News Source : GIK: Motivating vulnerable children to stay in school

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