The Power of Partnership: Education in Rwanda
by Kristi Burnham, US Fund for UNICEF
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of visiting one of the most beautiful countries on earth, Rwanda. My trip not only exposed me to great sights and people - it offered me resounding "proof" that through partnership, massive change and progress are possible.
While there, we visited a child friendly school, this one outside of Kigali, in Tsume. In 1952, when the school was built, it was one classroom. Now, 9 years of basic education are taught in more than a dozen classrooms here, because of a strong partnership between the school, the parents, the municipal governments, civil society and the private sector.
Because of this commitment to the 4,000 children in the sector, most of them are in school and accessing free services. There are plenty of latrines and hand washing stations and posters promoting these actions. The pre-school is funded by the community, to ensure children are ready to learn by the first grade.
This was not my first visit to witness UNICEF's programs, but it was an experience that was truly unforgettable. We visited health clinics that are working to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, One Stop Centers that are offering legal, social and health services to victims of violence, and income-generating programs that are helping women to garner job skills. Communities are ensuring their children have access to education, and stay in school. At every stop I was astonished at the extent to which partners are working together with one voice and one goal: to save and protect the lives of women and children in Rwanda.
Making sure that children have access to education is much more than schools and teachers - it means having enough nutritious food, protection from harassment and violence, access to sanitary facilities, help for families, basic health care, etc. This holistic approach to advancing access to education for all is one that is only achievable with each partner playing a role.
Programs on the ground in Rwanda are working. Access to health, education and welfare services are increasing, leading to healthy mothers and babies. The power of partnership cannot be emphasized enough, and I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to see the incredible impact that we all are making.
The power of partnership is not limited to Rwanda, We as Global Campaign for Education Members continue to demonstrate our shared commitment for the issues and our willingness to contribute our assets to a sum greater than those of our individual efforts. The future is bright for the women and children of Rwanda, and around the world, and we look forward to continuing to work with all of you to ensure that all children have a safe and healthy childhood.
Photo Credit: K. Burnham, U.S. Fund for UNICEF Rwanda, 2013
Kristi Burnham is the Vice President for Community Engagement at the US Fund for UNICEF.