It’s 5am and the girls in my dorm are getting ready to see their peers accept diplomas: The first ever graduation of the Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology here in Rwanda istoday. To understand why I feel like a balloon floating on euphoria you have to hear a little bit about how far these Gashora Academy girls have come.
Anocciat is highly appreciated by her teachers now, but it wasn’t always that way. After fleeing the genocide in Rwanda, Annociat’s mother gave birth to her in Uganda where they lived in a refugee camp. Just like food and water, education was a rarity. Very few were able to go to school but Anocciat was one of the few who attended. It took her 3 hours to walk to school and 3 hours back but she made the journey everyday. She soaked in what education she could but her teachers were keen on making things hard for her just because she was Rwandan. They beat her in front of her classmates, crossed out her right answers on exams and put in wrong ones, all the while saying things like “go back to Rwanda”. Through all of these difficulties, Annociat says “I still held on, worked hard because of true love and passion I had for education and learning. “
In Enatha’s village, no girls ever go to school. Why? Because people assume girls just get pregnant at school. When Enatha was 7, she asked her father if she could go to school. He told her “Go ahead and try.” So she did. Everyday, she would walk the far distance to school in bare feet since her family could not afford shoes. She would get to school with bloody feet and the children would tease her and break her down but she continued to go because, in her words, “I went there having in mind that I have to do what others have failed.” In an attempt to stop her studies the villagers burnt down her family’s coffee plants, “which were our source of everything.” Her father was traumatized and her mother thought about committing suicide, not knowing how they were going to survive. “After this situation, everyone was telling me to go and practice prostitute in order to get the materials to go to school and I said no that is not my dream. I struggled, but still working hard was my goal in order to get what I want to be.” Enatha says the experience has pushed her to attain good grades so that her parents will not give up. Although her village is still not happy with her going to school, Enatha says she still attends school because “I have to make a difference and support my community so that they can move from the darkness. Living in the dark, always push me to strive reaching in the light, and I will reach there. This I believe.”
Enatha is striving towards a career as a doctor.
To be a part, however small, of helping these inspirational young women achieve greatness is something I am grateful for. I can’t believe my luck in being able to volunteer for this school that has allowed girls like Enatha and Anocciat to flourish and pursue their goals. This is the school that has sent girls to the prestigious African Leadership Academy: the school that has had girls flourish from being non-English speakers, to receiving high marks on the English SAT section. This is the school that teaches 270 girls how to become physicists, biologists and doctors in a country where only a small percentage of women occupy these positions currently. The Gashora Girls Academy is an epicenter for positive change in Africa. Being a small part of the accomplishments here at this Academy is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Seeing these incredible girls accept their diplomas today will be like watching a new and refreshing history unfold and the beginning of something beautiful.