Burundi Schools Programme Builds on Solid Foundations

Posted by Colin Corbridge on Wed, 12 Mar 2008 | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

It’s been claimed that, “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn… and change”.

That’s certainly something that CMS Ireland’s partners in Burundi believe as they celebrate a new €500,000 education initiative that will enable them to rehabilitate 7 schools and make a massive impact on the future of this troubled country.

After decades of civil war in Burundi, the education infrastructure lies in ruins. Many schools have been damaged and destroyed, while trained teachers are in short supply. As in many majority world situations the significance of education in Burundi can’t be underestimated – it is a vital tool if its people are to rebuild a nation. Quality education brings development, stability and the lasting transformation that Burundi requires if it is to avoid slipping back to the conflicts of the past.

With the advent of peace and the arrival of a new president in 2005, the Burundian government recognised the scale of the challenge that lay before them and approached the Christian churches to see if there was any way in which they could help. Specifically they wanted to know if the churches could once again take over the running of the community schools that had been taken away from them in the past.

This isn’t a simple case of just building a few schools – it’s the outworking of years of relationship building and partnership which will continue when this programme is finished

It was this request that led the Anglican Church in Burundi to approach its partners in the UK and Ireland for assistance.

CMS Ireland, in conjunction with Lambeth Palace International Development Department, has recently secured €500,000 from Irish Aid, for a three year programme that will rebuild primary and secondary schools devastated as a result of the civil war. CMS Ireland recognises that physically rebuilding schools is only part of the solution – building the capacity of teachers, headteachers and church education officers is also crucial if the programme is to succeed.

“We’re delighted to be able to access this funding and we want to thank Irish Aid for their support”, said Mid-Africa Regional Mission Partner, Niall Manogue. “This isn’t a simple case of just building a few schools – it’s the outworking of years of relationship building and partnership which will continue when this programme is finished. The fact that the Church has been asked to take this on is testament to its faithful witness throughout the conflict that has torn Burundi apart and it has been a privilege to stand alongside God’s people in that place. We’re looking forward to developing our relationships even further as this programme unfolds”.

As education has assumed a central role in planning for Burundi’s future an ‘education roundtable meeting’ was held at the end of January. At this meeting, representatives from Churches, Government and NGOs met to discuss ways to develop the education sector. One of the most exciting aspects of the meeting was the presence of individuals, from other countries in the region (particularly Rwanda and DR Congo), who have also been working through the challenges of education in post-conflict environments. Their contribution meant the meeting quickly developed a regional emphasis, with different countries and CMS Ireland Partners, sharing experiences and ideas together.

Niall Manogue commented: “This whole thing is a ‘big picture’ look at how the Church can impact and change society. It’s exactly the sort of process that CMS Ireland want to be involved with – education providers in Burundi learning and sharing their experiences with other providers from neighbouring countries. It’s partnership in action”.

As Burundi continues to move out of a dark period in its history, CMS Ireland’s journey with the church continues – demonstrating how global partnerships can help empower local Christians for God’s work.

Niall Manogue will be visiting Burundi in April 2008 and will be meeting with a range of partners throughout the country.He will be keeping us up to date with his progress through his blog .

If you would like to learn more about CMS Ireland’s work in Burundi please contact Niall through CMS Ireland’s Belfast or Dublin offices.