KIGALI - The First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, yesterday, officiated at the ceremony to mark the 20 anniversary of La Colombiére School, where she observed that it takes sacrifice, determination and patience to invest in education.
She paid tribute to the founder of La Colombiére, Françoise Nyirantagorama, describing her as a living example of the type of people the country needs.
The First Lady spoke fondly of Nyirantagorama, who happens to have taught Mrs Kagame in her early education years back in Burundi, and how she started from scratch to be where she is today.
Mrs Kagame, who had earlier presented an award of excellence to the founder of the school, was at some point overcome by emotions as she spoke of how Nyirantagorama nurtured her in her first years in primary school, and how she is a compassionate woman who sacrificed a lot to educate over 100 children who could not afford school fees.
“Though she never talked about it, I have a history with Madam Françoise that goes way back. As you know some of us were born in other countries where we were as refugees, and Madam Françoise was my first teacher in Primary One and Two,” recalled the First Lady. “I want to take this opportunity to thank her for the role she played in the foundation of my educational journey, together with my parents.”
“I hope I was not a naughty student when she was teaching me,” the First Lady said, sending the guests into chuckles, to which Nyirantagorama rose and revealed how Mrs. Kagame was the best performing, humble and most disciplined student in the two years she taught her.
Mrs Kagame thanked Nyirantagorama for the initiative to start the school which she started in the Burundi Capital, Bujumbura, way back in 1990, and later relocated it to Kigali upon her return to Rwanda following the 1994 Genocide.
She noted that from meagre resources, Nyirantagorama started the initiative in a bit to support the education of the Rwandan child.
The First Lady, who also played a role in the establishment of the school, said that the school was started amidst hardships, but Nyirantagorama showed perseverance and determination, paired with her commitment and sacrifice and her love for education.
“Twenty years later, it is time to look back and see where this school has come from and where it is today and the future ahead,” observed the First Lady.
“The good plans ahead we have been told of, such as starting new science sections and building another child friendly school, are all promising but I would like to encourage you to put in mind the girl child and consider putting in place “girl’s environment infrastructure” – those things that facilitate the girl child to study well.”
Mrs Kagame also reminded parents that while schools like La Colombiére could be playing the role of child education well, the parent’s responsibility is not just to pay school feels or provide scholastic materials alone, but also to play their part in child upbringing.
She noted that some parents spend “a year” without checking on their children, saying that there is need for parents to spend time with their children, provide parental advice and also control what children watch in this era of modernity where computers, television, video games and internet play a prominent role in the raising of a child.
Mrs Kagame also urged children to play their rightful role by not disappointing their parents who sacrifice a lot to educate them, by reading hard, performing well in school, and observing high levels of respect and discipline.
Nyirantagorama, the founding principal of the school, talked about how her conscience compelled her to return home after 1994 to contribute to the nation building by educating the Rwandan child and how she started from scratch but was determined to achieve her goal.
With the help of the First Lady, she opened the school in 1995 when the country was still in shock as a result of the Genocide. Initially, the school was located in Remera, before it was moved to its permanent home in Kacyiru after the owners acquired a bank loan built its premises there.
The new premises were unveiled by President Paul Kagame in 2008.
The principal recalled how the school started at a time when the country was struggling to reopen schools and to accommodate the many children with different backgrounds that had returned from different countries.
Today, the school boasts of both English and French sections, and an International section. She said that the school is now expanding to include a new science section with new science courses and modern labs.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Sharon Haba, pledged continued Government support for private investments in the education sector. She commended the founders of the school for a job well done.