End of School Year Celebrations – Rwandan Style
October 31, 2010

Friday marked the end of  the Rwandan school year. I spent the entire day ‘celebrating’ with my two schools.

Over a week previously Flora, head of Nyabitare, had invited me to spend the afternoon over there. On Thursday evening  I took a belated, but welcome, call from Nyamateke asking me to spend the morning with them – so as luck would have it there was no clash to negotiate.

With 10.00 am the appointed hour I arranged a moto with Daniel for 09.30. I was enjoying my first outing of the week, soaking up the bright morning sunshine and taking in the unfolding views when another bike pulled up along side. It was Alex and who should be sitting behind him but a be-helmeted and grinning Wellars, head of Nyamateke.

Having exchanged ‘high fives’ there ensued a race, of kinds, towards Nyamateke. However there was only ever going to be one outcome given that the combined weight of Alex and Wellars was probably about half that on Daniels’s moto!

Wellars was already dismounted by the time Daniel’s, ‘made in  India’, 125cc bike had hauled us up the final steep approach to the school.

The children of Nyamateke enjoyed an extended period of recreation, for about an  hour and a half, whilst Wellars and his staff finalised the end of year prize giving ceremony. Eventually we were all assembled on the grassy bank facing the school building and the presentation began.

Three children from each class had been selected, based on their test results, to receive a prize of an exercise book (alarmingly many of these had pictures of either Manchester United or Liverpool on the front cover) and a biro.

Everything was wrapped up by 12.30 when Daniel arrived to take me on to Nyabitare for the second leg but Wellars was adamant we couldn’t leave without a drop of liquid refreshment. Crates of Fanta and inzoga had materialised in the office, and it wouldn’t have been right to turn down his hospitality, so the first slightly warm and frothy Mützig of the day was slurped from the bottle before moving on.

The tortuous, but enjoyable, cross-country route between schools took about fifteen minutes and as we wound our way around groups of children, homeward bound for the holidays, they turned with beaming smiles on their faces and waved their pink report cards.

At Nyabitare a sheltered seating area had been erected on the grassy quadrangle between the classrooms and as I arrived a sound system was being tested. What followed was a joyous P6 leavers’ performance of song, dance, speeches and prize giving.

The teachers and P6 students were all turned out in their Sunday best and the celebrations were watched by an impressive group of invited parents’ committee members.

Mid way through proceedings, my boss, Telesphore, the Director of Education, rolled up. This was quite unexpected, as far as I was concerned, but handy as I hadn’t seen him for a while and he could see I was out visiting one of my schools on a Friday afternoon, not slipping off to Kigali for an extended weekend!

Following the obligatory Fanta break, Telesphore, open necked in ‘designer’ jeans and trainers, (‘dress down Friday’ has obviously reached Rwanda)  made a speech during which he exhorted the P6 leavers to work hard at improving their English.

It was obviously thirsty work as immediately he had finished I was invited to retire to Flora’s office for a ‘quiet word’ which consisted of chewing the fat (literally) over a bowl of melanje and downing my second Mützig of the day.

Daniel arrived at 5.00pm for our homeward journey in the final glowing embers of the day. As I bobbed along on the back of the moto, feeling just a tad queasy, I felt quite elated and privileged to have spent such an uplifting day in the company of the students and staff at Nyamateke and Nyabitare schools.