This school is probably the most basic of the five that have been recently financed. It was founded in 1930 by Belgian missionaries who ran it until around 1950. When they left, teaching stopped and the school closed. It stayed closed until 2001 when it was resurrected by Jean de Dieu, the Director. He is from this area and he wanted to do something for his community. In his words: ‘All the children in my village were going to grow up to be cattle herders and farmers, with no other choice in life. So I thought to myself – I will go home and open a school.
hanks to this program the Director will have another six magnificent classrooms. He certainly seems pleased with them, telling us: ‘This is the first time we have had such jewels. Before, we sat on bamboo and fabricated classrooms from what we could find. This is beyond our wildest dreams.’
Born in 1984 Jean de Dieu Hakizimana Sendiba was educated locally and in Kiwanja. He’s married to Rizika Charmante. They have a baby boy called Jean d’Amour. Jean was well placed to get a job in Kiwanja but he chose this life, here, instead. It is hard to exaggerate the dynamism of this man who, in re-opening a long-dead school in war-torn Congo, has backed himself against massive odds, and, so far at least, has won.
The School at a Glance:
There are 448 pupils at the school
Year 1 121 84
Year 2 33 44
Year 3 20 31
Year 4 20 25
Year 5 25 15
Year 6 20 10
School Day: 07.00 – 11.50 and then 12.00 – 17.00. In effect there are two shifts because there are not enough classrooms to teach this number of students at the same time.
Age Range: Officially 6 – 12 but because of absences enforced by war many of the children are older than 12.
Curriculum: The National Curriculum of Mathematics, French, History, Geography, Science, Art and Music.
Sport: The boys here play football and have matches against teams from other schools. They have quiz contests with those schools too.
Fees: The equivalent of $6 per term per child. The fees can be paid in Ugandan Shillings or Congolese Francs.
Teacher’s Pay: Between $25 and $30 per month.
The parents are the only source of funding for the school. The school must pay the teachers as well as buy material for the pupils. The teachers cannot afford to live on these wages alone – all the teachers and the director cultivate crops to survive. Most of the parents too are subsistence farmers. And around 100 of the children have a Ranger, Tracker or Community Scout as a parent.
Bikenge was ravaged by the fighting of 2008. The school grounds still bear the physical scars of the experience – you can see firing positions that were dug by soldiers within five meters of the classrooms.
With admirable candor the director explains that he and his staff continued teaching during the war because the rebels, who controlled the area, wanted the school to stay open. He feared reprisals if they closed. Thankfully the situation is now approaching normal. As Jean de Dieu says, ‘we can go a whole month now without seeing a soldier!’