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PC(USA) related Racial Ethnic school educates future Rwandan leaders

New generation helping country ‘rise from the ashes, out of the genocide pit’

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Rwandan student Bonita Murara says the knowledge she is gaining at Menaul School will help in teaching people back home ‘how to improve their lives.’ (Photo by Paul Seebeck)

Rwandan student Bonita Murara says the knowledge she is gaining at Menaul School will help in teaching people back home ‘how to improve their lives.’ (Photo by Paul Seebeck)

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Rwandan Bonita Murara is thrilled to be going to school at Menaul School, a Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.) related college preparatory and boarding school for students in grades 6-12.

“The knowledge gained here is good,” she says. “One day we can return home to teach other people how to improve their lives.”

Murara, a sophomore, is in her second year at the school and is one the first Rwandan students to enroll at Menaul. Her scholarship is made possible through the school’s partnership with the Rwandan American Foundation (RAF), an international student outreach program. The foundation finds American schools willing to provide financial aid to qualified Rwandan students. Additional money comes from the foundation and student’s families.

Gerard Sefuku started the program after the 1994 genocide in his country against the Tutsi, where some one million Rwandans were killed, and another two million were displaced. Sefuku has placed more than 600 students in U.S. schools. Many have already returned to Rwanda to work in leadership positions to ensure the cycle of violence in their country ends.

“I truly believe education is the only solution for Rwandans to come from that genocide pit,” says Sefuku, noting that Rwanda is now the role model in Africa for security, governance, technology and economic development.

“We are rising from the ashes. Even though we are still one of the poorest nations, the survivors of the genocide feel good about the future—they have hope.”

Mary Spring, Menaul’s Director of Advancement says the school is “really happy” to be working with Sefuku to place Rwandan students. Two students came in 2015, another two this year. She says it’s one way the school lives into its mission of making education available to the under-served, and to economically disadvantaged students

“Our school is making a difference in people’s lives,” says Menaul president Lindsey R. Gilbert, Jr. “More than 99 percent of our students graduate from high school. Something I’m even prouder of is 70-80 percent finish their university studies.”

This means Menaul students, like Bonita Murara will be well equipped if they decide to return to their home country after graduation. The 16-year old says she has learned a quite a few things at the small New Mexico school of about 200 students. She’s particularly been impressed with Menaul’s “uniqueness” and at how “united they are in their sense of community.”

“This Rwandan piece that we’ve gotten involved in the last couple of years pulls at the heart strings,” says Menaul board member Jim Collie. “To help people whose families and homes have been destroyed maintain a balance as they mature and grow up and want to return home. What a privilege in working together with others to make that happen.”

The cost for a boarding student to attend Menaul School is $36,000 per student, per year. The Rwanda Foundation is paying $9,000 per year, per student and Menaul School needs to raise about $25,000 per year for each Rwanda student.

The Christmas Joy Offering helps support the development and education of future racial ethnic leaders at Presbyterian-related racial ethnic colleges and schools.


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