A beautiful little first-grade Rwandan girl named Divine read to us, and we all melted. Her warmth and genuineness, her joy in sharing her reading skills and in showing us how she could write her name on the blackboard made us smile and think about her wonderful gifts. But it also made us think about all of the other kids who have the same potential as Divine (pronounced di-VEEN-ay) yet is shut out of the life-changing opportunity of an education. Over 61 million children like Divine never go to primary school.
So we decided to tell her story and also tell the story about how our organization, the Global Partnership for Education, is working with teachers and schools in her country and others to help kids learn and grow.
As we all know, things have not always been so sanguine in Kigali, Rwanda, Divine's hometown.
The 1994 genocide killed "close to 80 percent of our intellectuals," Rwanda Education Minister Charles Murigande has said, "leaving a huge gap in our human resources." About 700,000 refugees flooded into Rwanda, creating a need for a unifying system. To become a knowledge-based economy, Rwanda needed to invest in human resources and "transform our people into the most important human and economic assets for the development of Rwanda."
The country's leaders targeted education as one of the main instruments to repair the damage to the fabric of society, including full access to education for all children and a ban on any form of discrimination. Rwanda wanted to move quickly to implement a nine-year basic education program, an endeavor supported by GPE.
GPE helped support enrollment-based small grants, administered at the school level, to empower schools. GPE has provided U.S. $140 million in support since 2006. With GPE's assistance, the government increased the percentage of students completing primary schooling from 23 to 68 percent over the first decade of the 2000s. At the same time, the girls primary-school completion rate rose from 85 percent of parity with boys to 100 percent of parity. In addition, repetition rates in primary school were cut in half, from 33 to 14 percent.
Divine was evidence of these remarkable results, much more tangible than a statistic, a much more heart-warming story. Her wonderful story is far too uncommon. We hope you'll join us in helping more girls like Divine learn and grow.
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