The land will also support a working farm.
The secondary classroom building
Map of Kitenga
The Sisters have invited the Girls Education Collaborative to be their partner
The library will be the project’s 1st eco-friendly building
The Health Center provides care and health education
A girl from Kitenga
Grading the new road - pathways to roadways
On 1,000 acres in a remote village in northern Tanzania, where life is hard, and poverty is generational, a transformative project is underway: Education and life skills for girls & the integration of community health, clean water, solar electrification, agriculture and more – this is the KITENGA VILLAGE PROJECT.
In a far northwest corner of Tanzania, in the village of Kitenga, change is taking place. Dirt roads and pathways, distant markets, no running water or electricity; limited schools and healthcare; a land deforested from cutting wood for cooking; unconscionably high rates of disease, malnutrition and mortality and destructive cultural practices – this is life’s fabric for the 7,500 villagers of Kitenga. It is a hard life, especially so for girls and women, as FGM and early marriage are continuing traditional practices. It is also a place of hope and energy, with great potential in human capacity.
The Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa have a bold plan to bring opportunity and resources to this remote community – to transform the landscape from one of poverty, illness and illiteracy to one of opportunity. For the first time, thanks to this community of remarkable Tanzanian nuns, members of this community have within their reach: clean water, healthcare, a grist mill, a kindergarten program and vocational training.
At the heart of the project though, and just recently opened, is an extraordinary school for girls….
In January 2017, after years of planning, the Immaculate Heart Secondary School for Girls opened! With the help of GEC and other partners, this remarkable school-based experience for girls has launched with its first co-hort of fifty-nine girls!
In a region where girls are habitually sold into marriage, traded for livestock and subjected to female ‘circumcision’, the girls attending the Kitenga School for Girls are, conversely, blossoming, learning and growing by the minute – their dreams are big and they are bold! To keep pace with these dreams, additions to the campus infrastructure are required (more classroom buildings and dorms, security fencing, campus road work, gardens, vehicles and more) so that we may give as many girls as we can, access to this revolutionary school.
The Government of Tanzania authorized the development of a comprehensive regional boarding school for girls to be built in Kitenga Village under the leadership and management of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa (IHSA). On 1,000 acres of government-awarded land (photo 1) the school, when fully developed, will enroll 1,500 girls in grades pre-K through secondary.
The school seeks to be a ‘visionary center of excellence’ that will deliver a meaningful education and serve “communities of farmers and pastoralists of differing life styles that impede children, and particularly girls, from getting an education.” (2005 IHSA Strategic Plan) The Sisters’ vision is aligned with today’s best thinking on an effective girls school and is powerful and compelling – to develop: “socially responsible leaders, thinkers who can participate in scientific activities and use analytical and problem solving skills; and graduates who will be committed to foster their basic human rights based on their conviction and knowledge to improve their lives through work and service.” (IHSA Strategic Plan)
Taking a holistic approach in order to address a girl’s interconnected needs, the school will provide, within a safe and nurturing community, health and life skills education, workforce training, leadership development and other elements that are vital to unlocking each girl’s potential.
The school is starting with the secondary level, as these are the girls most at risk for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriage.
After years of anticipation and effort, the Kitenga School for Girls has launched and there are 59 girls in the first co-hort. The school is off to a strong start and already poised for growth. A new classroom block is under construction to accommodate an additional 60 students for the next school year, which begins in January.
In 2012, when GEC joined hands with the IHSA on their bold quest to educate marginalized girls, their vision held the potential of being transformational for this community and region. Yet the implementation—in an area with no roads, running water or electricity—was complex and costly. With support of earlier partners, they had made progress (one classroom block was finished and the dormitory foundation laid) but still ahead of them were seemingly insurmountable challenges. GEC listened to their new partners and listened to the community. Strategic priorities were determined. GEC got to work.
Two critical pieces of infrastructure had to be built in order for the school to receive government registration and be properly prepared to deliver a high quality and relevant education to girls – the library and science center. GEC: raised the necessary funding; had the buildings designed to be green and sustainable; hired the builder; oversaw construction; and ensured accountability and transparency. Twenty four months longer to build than anticipated (mostly due to el Nino rains), but on budget, and beautifully built, The Alice Kryzan Memorial Library and Science Center are now welcoming their first students.
GEC also helped finish the dormitory by contributing a significant financial contribution and being a thought partner as needed.
While GEC has been ‘building’ a lot of infrastructure over the past few years, we are not a ‘school-building’ organization. We are an organization committed to listening to community-identified priorities around educating girls and then thru the use of ‘responsive project design’ strategically identifying how we can help bring to fruition visions to empower and educate girls.
In Kitenga, as the partnership between GEC and the Sisters has deepened, GEC has also taken an increased role in planning and programming – whatever is needed to help this school meet its potential in a efficient and enduring way.
Alice Kryzan, an environmental attorney, community leader, mom and congressional candidate, passed away in June 2012 from cancer. As a tribute to her life’s work and passions: the environment, reading, travel and women’s empowerment, the school library was built in her memory – a special space for girls to grow, dream and succeed. Through the generous support of Alice’s family, friends, and colleagues, funds were raised through GEC to build Kitenga’s first environmentally sound building thru design, materials use, water capture and solar electrification. The solar panels are being generously donated by the Solar Liberty Foundation.
Our partners celebrated the chance to go beyond government-standard design science labs and bring to Kitenga a visionary concept that acts as an academic centerpiece for the secondary school. Recently, the government inspectors declared “These are some of the finest science labs in all of Tanzania – they will be a model for other schools!”
Using a similar architectural approach to the Alice Kryzan Library, the three-lab building is designed in a way to best support students, teachers and the study of science. The biology, chemistry and physics labs will be supplemented by an outdoor ‘flex’ space for student and teacher use.
GEC successfully raised the funds to design, construct and oversee the building of the Science Center. We are incredibly grateful to all who boldly gave to this initiative to bring opportunity to girls’ lives. Thank you! The new students are passionate about the sciences and these new labs will help their dreams take flight.
The lack of a road into the 1,000 acre campus was very problematic during the construction phase of the facilities. Lorries got stuck, materials couldn’t be delivered, workers were waylaid. The heavy and prolonged el Nino rains made it clear that a dependable road was needed to not only ensure the delivery of supplies (and people!) once the school was opened, but to ensure access and egress for safety and security. Demonstrative of the GEC model, we listened to our partners, listened to the community and collectively realized that putting in the road was no longer something that needed to be done in the future, it needed to be done now.
Working with community leaders and stakeholders, the Sisters led a process to determine the best route into the school campus. Property owners along the road gave access to their land. Plans were drawn up to build a 4.5km raised morrum access road. About half-way along the route is a small river that is sleepy during the dry season but impassable during the rains. A bridge was needed too.
With the amazing support of the ‘GEC Community’, GEC was able to fund and build the new road. It is already an incredible asset and one wonders how we managed without it!
Part ‘of the dream’ was to some day build a guest residence as part of the Kitenga campus—a place where visitors, trainers, researchers, volunteers and parents could stay—and no longer have to drive an hour away to the nearest accommodation. A place for visitors would be ‘more than a guest house’ – it would allow for greater collective participation in the Kitenga Village Project, it would build community. Not only is staying far away expensive and time consuming, but it also sets up a dynamic of the ‘visitor’ driving in each morning and departing each evening – inhibiting the true potential of the sharing and learning that takes place within a community setting.
Thanks to the dedicated friends and family of the late Betsy Green, building this envisioned guest house became reality in 2017 – and it has already become a favorite spot in Kitenga!
Over the past five years, GEC has grown an incredible community of support, collectively working towards making the world a better place, one girl at a time. Over 1,000 financial contributors and many dedicated volunteers, mentors and thought partners, have each played an essential role in helping GEC manifest its capacity and determination to bring resources and expertise to locally-led (but resourced-starved) initiatives to empower girls and strengthen the fabric of their communities.
Because of this collective effort and commitment, there is now a girl with her hand in the air and books in front of them, instead of a baby on her back or an older man waiting at home for his wife. Some day, these girls will become mothers and leaders and income earners – and perhaps anything they want to be. There’s nothing a girl can’t do.
Thank you for being a part of it.
Please join us in creating better futures for the world’s girls. Securely donate using a credit card by clicking Give Here.
Or you can mail a check to:
Girls Education Collaborative
640 Ellicott Street
dig at the Innovation Center
Buffalo, NY 14203
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