​Happy Students

September 26 2022 | by

THE NYABIHANGA Primary School I, situated in the province of Mwaro in central Burundi, was built in 1948. It was becoming dangerous and non-functional. “Two of the classes and the administrative block had already been demolished,” says Ignace Bazirutwabo, the school director. “And classrooms that looked functional had cracks in the walls. We were fearful that there could be accidents involving the students or staff.” Something had to be done.

For two years, the students were relocated to buildings in Nyabihanga Primary School II. “There, though, the excess number of students at the school was becoming a major problem to achieving good learning,” says Father Ildephonse Sabokwigina, parish priest of Nyabihanga. “Some kids had to come to school in the morning while others came in the afternoon. It was a problem situation that we needed to find an answer to, but we didn’t have the means to progress. A number of students were also dropping out of school and becoming juvenile delinquents. The reconstruction of the Nyabihanga Primary School I would solve these problems and would also allow the parish to celebrate 75 years of existence of this Catholic primary school.”

The relatively young parish of Nyabihanga – founded in 2013 – is one of 44 parishes which makes up the diocese of Gitega. Not only is the parish young, the people who live there are too: more than 65 percent are under the age of 25. At its foundation, the parish population consisted of 17,000 Christians out of a total of 24,000.  “The people here practice subsistence agriculture and have little income at their disposal,” explains Fr. Ildephonse. “Despite their manifest willingness, their contribution to community development activities organized by the parish has been small scale.”


Halted reconstruction


Given the urgency of the primary school situation, the parish began work on the reconstruction in October 2020 while gradually collecting local contributions. Its hope was to find larger contributions from other benefactors to complete the project, such as St. Anthony’s Charities, which had already helped the parish in previous years. Unfortunately, work was interrupted by heavy rains, and the finances to finish the project weren’t there. The project had reached the point of raising the walls and a sum of €36,500 had already been spent to arrive at that point.

The total projected costs for the reconstruction amounted to €73,500. A sum of €37,000 was therefore needed to ensure project completion. In October 2021, St. Anthony’s Charities agreed to support the project, and the funds would be delivered in three instalments as is often the case with such projects. The locals also pledged to support the project physically by offering labour to help the masons establish the building site, and to provide bricks and rubble for the buildings.


Three phases


The first phase of the school completion project began as soon as the first funds were received in October 2021. This included purchase of metal components to erect the framework for the administrative block and for a six-classroom block, guttering for the blocks, a rubble stone pavement outside the classrooms, and the entire flooring of the corridor outside the six classrooms. The second phase began in December 2021 with the purchase of sheetmetal roofing for the administration and classroom blocks and subsequent construction of the roofs. The final phase started in January 2022. This included purchase and fitting of frames and floor coverings, purchase and mounting of six blackboards, fitting and painting of doors and windows, finishing pavements, and fitting of pipes for water drainage and collection of rainwater.

A general shortage of fuel in Burundi hampered project activities and also caused prices of materials to increase over the course of the project. Early electrical power cuts also caused project deadlines to slip and unfortunately, these cuts became more and more frequent. And then there was more heavy rain in December. These difficulties combined delayed the project by two months from its projected end date of January 2022. The project was finally completed on 15 March 2022.


Immediate benefits


Eight-hundred-and-thirty-six primary school students from the first to sixth grades – from six to 14 years old – will benefit directly from the reconstruction of the school together with their 26 teachers. “This project will, from now, also reduce the number of kids leaving school and significantly reduce the risk of accidents,” says Fr. Ildephonse. “The school will better serve these children who are not only the hope and future of our country, but also of our church. Educating children is a commendable action which prepares them for a good future.”

“This project has saved us from a precarious situation which could have caused serious problems due to the lack of teaching facilities and the long journey pupils needed to undertake to find alternative places of learning,” says Ignace Bazirutwabo, the school director. “We are delighted that the project is now complete. At the moment, we have put all our old equipment back into the school, but somehow it doesn’t fit with the new buildings, so we will start a new project to replace it with new equipment. Now that this project is complete, all the staff and students send thanks to you all for accomplishing this great project. And I thank you for your kind hearts.”


Titanic job


“On behalf of the Christians of Nyabihanga Parish, it is my honour to thank you greatly for having financially supported our project to reconstruct their primary school,” concludes Fr. Ildephonse. “It was a great experience to think of a big project like this. It was really a titanic job with great mobilisation of funds. May God bless the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony, and all those who contributed. For this still young parish, it was an opportunity to experience the universal solidarity of the Church. Our parish has grown. May Saint Anthony of Padua pray for us all and may God bless all the benefactors of St. Anthony’s Charities.”

Updated on September 28 2022