Update from CITW at Gishwati Forest – January 2022

On this UNESCO International Day of Education, we couldn’t be more excited to share CITW Rwanda’s latest successes at Gisunzu Primary School, situated in the community neighbouring Gishwati-Mukura National Park in the north-west of the country. We are humbled by the generosity of Wilderness Safaris Bisate and Magashi guests, whose kind donations made these improvements possible.

Upgraded Gisunzu Primary School grounds – total value USD5 000

You might remember our update from 2021, when the Gisunzu school grounds were nothing more than barren ground. Due to the lack of a proper rainwater drainage system, the grounds were only ever muddy and wet, or very dry. The school is situated on a hill (we are in The Land of a Thousand Hills, after all) and whenever it rains, water comes gushing down the slope.

With the assistance of generous donations from our guests, we have been able to create a drainage system and pathways to the classrooms.

We also added a volleyball field and the students planted lots of indigenous trees with our help.

The works are now complete and the trees are already bigger than the students who planted them!

A special thanks to CITW Co-ordinator, Aline Umutoni, Headmaster, Cyprien Maniragaba and Head of the Parent Association, Jean Damascene Uwanyirijuru, for their unflagging commitment and supervision, which enabled the finalisation of this project.

Support for the 56 youngest learners at the newly added Nursery School at Gisunzu Primary School – total value USD1 700  

During our last meeting with the Gishwati Community Committee, the headmaster and community members raised the need to start a nursery school at Gisunzu Primary School for all the little ones.

The school was willing to dedicate teachers’ time and effort to this, but they were lacking the supplies to make it happen.

Wilderness Safaris and CITW were in a position to assist thanks to guest donations, and on the 19th of January, 2022 distributed the necessary items : in total 112 sets of uniforms, 56 pairs of shoes, 56 school bags, 112 face masks, 14 study tables, 56 small chairs, 56 pullovers and further lesson materials.

The pictures say it all – very happy little students and delighted parents (who watched the event from a distance, respecting the COVID regulations at the school).

CITW Co-ordinator Aline Umutoni was so happy to be able to facilitate this for the school’s youngest students. “They are so cute! I wish I could take them home”, she giggled.

Support for the 89 most disadvantaged learners at Gisunzu Primary School – total value USD2 500  

At Gisunzu Primary School there is a relatively high number of learners who are part of the “Historically Marginalised People”, a non-ethnic reference to the second-class status of the Batwa people throughout Rwandan history; abasangwabutaka (original inhabitants of the land); and abasigajwe iynuma n’amateka (the ones who have been left behind by history). The population of the Batwa in Rwanda is estimated at between 25 000 and 30 000, less than 1% of the country’s approximately 12 million people. Although there has been an increase in political focus on the problems faced by the Batwa in Rwanda, they remain extremely socio-economically disadvantaged.

The Batwa are widely recognised as the indigenous or autochthonous people of the Great Lakes region of Africa, and their ancestral territories lie in the forests surrounding Lake Kivu in Rwanda. They were evicted from the forests of western Rwanda during efforts to protect the region’s endemic and endangered species – especially the famed mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.  Before their complete eviction, the Batwa relied on the resource-rich woodlands for their sustenance, livelihood, spiritual activities and identity.

The Gishwati Community Committee requested all the necessary study equipment for the 89 students who are enrolled at Gisunzu Primary School, so that they are able to continue their studies at the same standard as their classmates. On the 19th of January 2022 we distributed 178 pairs of uniforms, 89 pairs of shoes, 1 335 notebooks, 178 face masks, 1 780 writing items and 89 mathematical sets.

During the distribution our Gishwati Community Committee was of course present, but also the Head of Social Affairs of Kigeyo Sector, Mr Appolimaine Nsabuwera, and the Director of Studies of the Group Scolaire Kinihiram, Mr Faustin Harerimana. Both gentlemen thanked Wilderness Safaris and CITW for their continued support of the Gishwati community and schools. “We are delighted that Wilderness Safaris and Children in the Wilderness are here to help us. May we continue to grow and develop together”, mentioned Mr Harerimana in his closing statement.

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