UGHE Students-Led Butaro Scholars Program Empowers Schoolchildren in Butaro through Educational Capacity Building

On a beautiful day in the scenic Butaro community, a group of UGHE MBBS students embarks on a “walk the talk” field visit under the community health (CBE) course.

Among them is Alex Ainebyona, who encounters a group of high school students at Groupe Scholaire Runaba, including Sugira Benjamin, on their way home from school. 

Attempting to communicate in English, the MBBS students are met with laughter and shyness from Sugira and his classmates.   

Realizing the language barrier, they switch to Kinyarwanda to understand the reason behind the children ‘s reaction. Sugira and his classmates explain, “We don’t understand what you said and can’t reply in English.”   

Reflecting on this eye-opening experience, Alex and his classmates were struck by the urgent need for a learning program to assist pupils in Butaro. 

Alex passionately expresses, “After our CBE field visit, we went back to campus discussing the problem we have seen. We have identified a clear need for a learning program to support these children in Butaro. We felt called to the responsibility of unleashing their potentials and helping them succeed in school.” 

With this experience, Alex and his classmates were compelled to take action and make a difference. 

Through the support from UGHE Community Engagement, Alex and his colleagues initiated a pilot English Learners Program for Butaro students like Sugira and his classmates. 

It’s been a few months since the English lessons started for Sugira and fellow students in Butaro.  

Sugira recalls his previous embarrassment from speaking English, admitting, “I used to be ashamed of speaking English before others because I was very poor in the language. This not only hindered my ability to express myself effectively in English but also posed a challenge when trying to comprehend other subjects.” 

Sugira Benjamin, one of the beneficiaries of the English training and education mentorship provided by UGHE students.

However, now that Sugira has been part of the program for a while, he feels more confident to express himself in English.

He exclaims, I never thought I could listen, read, write, and speak English like I am now, thanks to this program. Not only has my English improved, but my understanding and grades in other subjects have also improved.” 

Gaudence Uwidutije, a monther to Albert who is a beneficiary of the Butaro Scholars Program.

For parents like Gaudance Uwidutije, the program makes her a proud parent. Witnessing the transformation in her child, she expresses her gratitude and encourages the continuation of the initiative.

I was overjoyed that my child Albert was part of this program. I saw an increase in his confidence, grades and today was amazed to hear him speak English confidently. My desire as a parent is that my child studies and reaches a level where these UGHE students are, and to the best of my ability, I will support him throughout the journey.”

Amplifying Change 

To expand the impacts of the English Learners Program, UGHE Community Health and Social Medicine, in a celebratory event at the beautiful Butaro Campus, recently launched the Butaro Scholars Program (BSP) to incorporate other educational capacity building activities apart from English training.

As the first of its kind in Butaro, BSP is a community-based initiative founded and led by UGHE medical students to enhance English language proficiency and academic performance among primary and secondary students in Butaro. The program not only educates, inspires, and empowers young minds but also paves the way for a brighter future.

Prof Daniel Seifu, Acting Dean of Research, Innovation, and Quality at UGHE, who was present at the launch, stressed the university’s intention to help its students in their initiative to make a significant impact in the lives of Butaro pupils.

He said, “As an institution committed to maximize the benefits of the community where it operates, UGHE will continue to support this remarkable initiative spearheaded by our students, which promises to make significant differences in the lives of Butaro schoolchildren.”

He then encouraged UGHE community to participate in this initiative. “Let us remember today that education is a fundamental right, not a privilege and it is our responsibility as individuals and as an institution to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to learn and grow.”

The Butaro Scholars Program aligns with UGHE’s commitment to maximize the benefits of the community and its unique model of community-based education. It aims to empower students with essential skills and knowledge.

From English, Science, Math, and Technology lessons to career guidance and soft skills development, the program offers a comprehensive spectrum of learning, ensuring holistic development for Butaro primary and secondary students.

Nkunzimana Pierre Celestin, a primary six teacher, acknowledges the program’s positive impact on his students. He believes that through the program, they will not only improve their English proficiency but also excel in other subjects, thereby unlocking their full academic potential.

He says, “They will learn to speak fluently and write English and improve their knowledge on other courses covered in the program which will not only make them proficient in English but also boost their overall academic potential and life opportunities.

Looking Ahead 

(From left to right) Etienne Manirarora, Alex Ainebyona, and Isaac Kibalama, all co-founders of this initiative aiming at academically empowering Butaro schoolchildren.

Alex Ainebyona, Etienne Manirarora, and Isaac Kibalama, Co-Founders of the Butaro Scholars Program envision expanding the program to incorporate additional initiatives that will further broaden its impact. These plans include providing access to resources like libraries and computer labs for Butaro students.

We have significant plans for this program. We are working on building strategic partnerships to create more opportunities for our students to access library resources, online textbooks, and expanding teaching materials to cover soft skills and critical thinking,” says Alex.

By breaking down language barriers and nurturing academic development, BSP equips pupils in Butaro to become proficient in English, gain valuable computer skills, and pursue higher learning opportunities. Through this program, UGHE students are partnering in shaping a brighter and more promising tomorrow for the students of Butaro.