Founded in 1926 this school has seen some difficult times. None more so than the war of 2008-09 when the school was forced to close as the local population abandoned their homes, land and crops, and fled. The fighting was so close and so intense that at the time the people of Bukima believed – falsely as it turned out – that rebels had laid mines in the strategically important road to Kanombe Primary.
The school, having been very much caught in the crossfire, survived the war to be completely, and almost immediately, re-built. The Director is delighted with it, saying: ‘The classrooms are very well built, and this really reinforces the fact that education is considered important by the Congolese Wildlife Authority.’
Before Jerome Gakuru became Director in 1996 he taught at Rumangabo School. Speaking of his profession he says: ‘I became a teacher because I wanted to help children. I think that is why anyone, anywhere in the world, becomes a teacher. It really is a vocation. Education is the future.’
He has eight children; four of whom attend this school.
The School at a Glance:
There are 328 boys and 155 girls at the school.
40% of the pupils are Rangers’ children.
School Day: 07.00 – 12.00.
Age Range: 6 – 12.
Curriculum: The National Curriculum of Mathematics, French, History, Geography, Science, Art and Music.
Sport: They would love to have a football pitch but at the moment they have no sporting facilities or equipment whatsoever.
Fees: $2.5 dollars per month per child for the teachers’ salaries and $1 per term for materials.
Teacher’s Pay: $25-30 per month.
If you were to visit the gorillas you would drive right past the school. The road to Bukima is steep and rough. It runs past the village, then the school and then terminates at the Rangers’ Patrol Post. After that you’d be on foot: in the forest, heading up into the Virunga Mountains and towards the gorillas. As the Director points out, ‘When tourists go and visit the gorillas we see them drive past. The children love to see them.’
The staff and children know that the park is economically as well as biologically valuable to the area. In the Director’s words, ‘we know gorillas must be protected. They are a symbol of our country and we rely on them to bring tourism back to our part of the world.’
If Virunga is to survive it will be because the people who live right on the park’s boundaries understand how valuable it is. The construction of this school has gone a long way to showing the people of Bukima that Virunga is worth protecting, but there is plenty left to do. This school is in dire need of new facilities, equipment and materials and needs all the help it can get.