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Founded in 1936 Virunga National Park Primary school is at the organizational and spiritual hub of the park: Rumangabo. The cost of re-building this school was met by The Murry Foundation – they also financed the first phase of the construction of the nearby gorilla orphanage. In 2008 the construction of the school was interrupted as the Kivu War careered through the park. Apart from that, it went well mostly because these building projects, from tender to completion, are managed by one of our partner organizations, in a process that is transparent and accountable to audit. The bricks that comprise the building were manufactured in Rumangabo using a machine that was imported from South Africa especially for the job. The manual work was done by local people who were grateful for the employment. The school has seven classrooms and has room (but only just) for 700 students. It cost $77,000 to build.

The Director

Jean Claude Murengezi was born and raised nearby. He worked as a primary school teacher for many years before being appointed a director, and was the director at two other schools before being offered his current job in 2009. Jean Claude is married and has four children: Giselle, Celine, Delphin and Irene. Giselle and Celine both attend the school.

The School at a Glance
There are 723 pupils at this school, but that number is growing as more of the people who fled the 2008-09 fighting return. 55% of the pupils are boys and 45% are girls. 68% of the children have a ranger as a parent.

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 have a football pitch: it slopes a bit and has some fairly lethal looking holes in it, but none of that stops the children playing on it whenever they can.

Fees: $2.5 dollars per month per child for the teachers’ salaries and $1 per term for materials.

Teachers’ Pay: $25-30 per month.


In March 2009 the Provincial Environment Minister opened this school by cutting a tape spanning an open classroom door. During the opening ceremony Mwami Ndeze, leader of many hundreds of local communities, spoke publicly of the link between the wildlife of Virunga and the new school. Without the gorilla, elephant and buffalo of Virunga, he explained, the new building might well never have been built. After that speech the children sang the national anthem as the rangers saluted. And, in a symbolic act to close the ceremony, around 1,200 poachers’ snares that had been retrieved from the forest were burned. Since that day this school has gone from strength to strength but, like all the other schools, it will need a tremendous amount of support if it is to flourish in the future.