I extend greetings and prayers to you from the Bishop and people of Byumba diocese. Allow me to explore briefly an outline of Byumba diocese. Byumba is one of the nine dioceses found in Rwanda Central-Africa. The diocese was created in 1981. It has twenty-one parishes with a population of 1,484,125 out of whom 768,749 are Catholic (51.8%) of the total population. There are 125 active priests, 156 women and men religious, and 430 catechists, as of 2016 of statistics.
Byumba diocese suffered terrible effects of a horrendous war of 1990-1994 that ended up into genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 -this year marks 25yrs; needless to say, Byumba lost many lives of her people: the laity, (the first bishop and 16 priests). After the war, the challenging work of rebuilding the nation and diocese begun. The emphasis was put on education at all levels. The New bishop, Servilien Nzakamwita, wanted a change to happen and happen fast. His main focus was to educate parents about the importance of education girls, all girls in the diocese.
Education of the girl-child in Africa has been undermined since time immemorial based on wrong premises due to social norms and customs. It must be noted that many concerns and constraints in girls’ education are rooted in deep-seated gender inequalities where boys are favored more than the girls. It was also assumed that girls have roles as mothers, brides and household laborers who should only acquire basic reading, counting and writing skills at primary level and thereafter get married. For the new bishop of Byumba, things had to change to better a girl’s future.
After his election to the episcopate in 1996, Bishop Servilien started a struggle to fight for the girl-child’s rights to higher education. In addition to the argument that “educating a girl is educating the nation”, Bishop Servilien believes that “educating a girl is empowering women, reduces ignorance rates in society, and that educated women are a source of peace and unity in family and in entire society”. One of the strategies he has used to realize his dream, of education of girls, is to integrate girls into high schools which were meant for only boys. One of those schools is the College Don Bosco de Rushaki which opened its doors in 1987 for only boys and closed in 1990 due to the wars and the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
When it reopened in 1998, bishop Nzakamwita gave an order to admit, as many girls in the area who are academically capable, into the school and give them opportunity to have unlimited access to high education. From the four apartment blocks which accommodated boys, the bishop gave one to the girls. From that day till now, girls have been admitted into the school and they are very competitive and enthusiastic academically. In 2015 the best student in the district was a girl and from the College Don Bosco de Rushaki. (She went to study Physics, Chemistry and Biology in one of the best science schools of higher learning in Kigali City. Though from an economically humble family, she is striving to become a Medical Doctor).
Today the total enrolment of girls is higher as compared to that of boys at the College de Rushaki. Out of the 408 students who enrolled this school year (2018), 212 are girls. However, the accommodation of girls in this school has remained a very daunting challenge. It was lack of enough room for accommodation that led Bishop Servilien, in collaboration with the parents to come up with an idea to construct a storied multipurpose apartment, enough space for a minimum of about 450 girls in this school. Completing the project requires approximately US$442,000. As of this moment, at least $150,000 has been collected from the parents and local donors since 2015 when the project started. Parental contribution continues up to this day through collection of local building materials, like stones and bricks that are locally molded and baked. As I speak to you, work is already underway to raise the walls of a ground floor of the building, after completing its foundation structures.
Bishop Servilien Nzakamwita is grateful for the invitation your local Church extended to Byumba diocese. He would like to appeal to each and every one of you to contribute generously towards this cause. Your donation will be a big boost in promoting the child girl’s right to higher education in rural places under his jurisdiction. He is excited to share his dream with you in your parish. Also he would like to extend an invitation to you to visit with Byumba diocese at a time of your choice. Your generous contribution is appreciated highly and fondly, for I know for sure, how far it will go to giving hope to little girls from humble beginnings realize their God given potential. Thank you so very much.