Arc En Ciel

July 27 2019 | by

“AT SCHOOL the best thing is the porridge at break time and colouring in with the teacher,” says little 4-year-old Kevin who, prior to the successful completion of a project in Rwanda funded by St Anthony’s Charities, hardly ate even once a day. Kevin comes from a very poor family. The introduction of a canteen at his kindergarten provides encouragement to his family to send him there and he, himself, is keen to attend.

The Arc En Ciel kindergarten is located in Marantima, a suburban village of Ruhengeri (also now known simply as Musanze), Rwanda, which has, over the last 5 years, become incorporated into the city as a result of its expansion. The poverty rate has increased as many of the inhabitants of the village have been dispossessed of the land they previously used for cultivation and farming, thus losing their main source of income. “In this area there were no kindergartens as no private individual would invest in an area in which the parents could not pay the school fees,” says Munezero Grace, Director of the Arc En Ciel kindergarten. “Even now there are no state run nursery schools in the neighbourhood.” The kindergarten operates with the support of two charities: Grain de Sénevé and Caritas Ruhengeri.

“The Arc En Ciel school wants to present itself as an educational centre for early childhood in an area of the city that is among the poorest, offering children of the neighbourhood what is called inclusive education,” Munezero continues. “That means providing education addressed to all children regardless of their social background, psychophysical state, or gender.” In order to do that, the school building required renovation and further funding to ensure the best performance of day-to-day activities.


List of priorities


A set of priorities was established in order to achieve this. First the provision of a canteen, which was seen as fundamental in order to provide children with a snack during the morning, and lunch at noon. This would enable the children to concentrate better on their work and not fall asleep as a result of a lack of energy. “Most of our children come from very poor families,” says Munezero, “and this would also help to reduce child malnutrition.”

The establishment of an emergency medical fund was envisaged. The public health service is not very efficient, and to provide rapid and effective treatment of sick children it is often necessary to turn to private provision. It would cover both doctors’ fees and purchase of medicines.

Water is scarce in the neighbourhood and can often be absent for several days. A new water cistern for the school would guarantee a constant water supply and provide enough water for the kitchens and bathrooms to function hygienically.

For the everyday running of the school new equipment and materials were required: teaching materials for activities with the children; a computer and printer for the office; and uniforms to standardise the appearance of children from different social backgrounds.

“The space dedicated to the kitchen needed to be completely restructured,” says Munezero, “It was not fit for purpose and new equipment was required. Similarly the existing bathrooms used by both staff and children were very old, outdoor, and not hygienic. New bathrooms were needed: one for staff and three for the children.”

Work was also envisaged to rearrange the garden and play area to make it safer and easier for the children to use. The room to allow the children to rest also required new mattresses, sheets, and blankets.


New tank


The total cost of the proposals was just over €12,300. St Anthony’s Charities approved a grant of €11,000 to cover the remaining costs after local contributions had been taken into account.

Most projects receiving financial assistance from St Anthony’s Charities are carried out in a number of phases and this was no exception. During the first phase, the canteen service began providing a snack in the morning and afternoon, and lunch at noon, Monday to Friday. The medical assistance fund was established, enabling treatment of sick children to be financed. Uniforms were provided and teaching materials purchased. The kitchen plans changed, however. “We decided to enlarge the existing structure rather than renovate a space we had intended for the kitchen,” explains Munezero. “The exterior was left unfinished in favour of tiling the floor to provide better hygiene. All the necessary utensils, pans and crockery were also purchased.” The space freed up inside the main building was converted into a second rest room, and ten new mattresses together with sheets and blankets were purchased. A new septic tank had to be constructed because previously there was merely a hole dug in the ground. It had insufficient capacity and, as a result of not having a hermetic closure, was dangerous and unhygienic. Finally, a concrete base was constructed for the new 5,000 litre cistern.


Poultry house


During the second phase the summer was very dry and water was diverted in order to supply the most important residential areas. “Fortunately we had installed the cistern which guaranteed us a good reserve,” says Munezero. “However, we had the unexpected cost of three water tankers which then supplied us with enough water to the end of the year. We reduced some expenditure in order to prioritise the canteen service and health provision as these have both resulted in great benefits to the children’s learning ability.”

Local participation in the project was not limited to a financial contribution. A small poultry house has been built, and the eggs from the hens are used in meals provided to the children. Parents agreed to be responsible for feeding the hens, and rice is being donated each month. The uniforms for the children were sewn for free by one of the children’s mothers and by a friend of the school. During the construction of the kitchen and bathrooms parents worked as assistant masons, and a friend of the school volunteered services as both plumber and electrician. Parents also took care of preparing the garden and play area for sewing of grass seeds, and to enable international volunteers to build wooden play structures which were then decorated by two local artists who are former students of the school. A very effective local and international effort by all involved.


Happy parents


“It is a joy that the kindergarten has started the canteen service for our children,” says Thaciene, a mother of one of the children. “My child suffered from malnutrition and now he is in good health because the kindergarten provides lunch and snacks. Many thanks to the benefactors who have helped our kindergarten. May God bless you!”

The school is hopeful that the quality of the service it provides will continue to improve so that it is considered not only as a school for the poor, but one of quality. It can then attract children from more affluent families who can pay school fees thereby guaranteeing its financial viability. It will, of course, continue to seek financial support to pay the on-going fees for children whose families cannot afford to pay.

“We are very grateful for the help that St Anthony’s Charities has given us,” concludes Munezero Grace. “Working with children living in situations of poverty was difficult before we received the support from St Anthony’s Charities, and now these children come to school regularly. Since the intervention, our children have been in good health and we no longer find any cases of malnutrition. All the children are happy and fit, which is absolutely necessary for them to participate in school activities. They no longer fall asleep from hunger in the classroom and it is much easier for the staff to work because the children are now much more receptive. Many thanks to St Anthony’s Charities and to the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony for their generosity.”

Updated on July 27 2019