Ireen Ngabireyimana’s boarding school experience

05 September 2019

Ireen Ngabireyimana is attending a boarding secondary school with a Naweza scholarship.  

After arriving in Malawi with her parents in 2012, she enrolled in sixth grade at the only primary school in the Dzaleka refugee camp. Malawi schools teach in English, and Ireen came from francophone Burundi. She did not understand or speak any English when she arrived, but she worked hard to complete primary school, and enrolled in secondary school in 2017 with the help of a JRS scholarship. 

Boarding schools are considered the best option for secondary education in Malawi and allow girls more opportunities to pursue their education. African culture typically encourages girls to do most of the household chores like cooking, cleaning, and fetching water. These additional responsibilities leave very little time for homework and study. Additionally, most families live without electricity, using candles and lamps. This makes difficult to do any studying at night. Majority of the refugee camps live in poverty, and most children go to school on empty stomachs. The many challenges that arise when refugees try to claim their right to education can often lead to disillusionment or hopelessness, pushing these young girls into sex work. This is followed by teenage pregnancies and very high drop out rates. In boarding schools, girls are able to focus on their education and reach their full potential with the added benefit of providing more space in the limited Dzaleka schools.   

Ireen is thriving at her new boarding school, saying, “I am so happy here. I have enough food, I don’t have to go to school on an empty stomach, and therefore I learn better. I love my teachers. My English has also improved since we are not allowed to speak any other language. I believe that I will perform well in English during national exams. ”  

Ireen has a special focus on passing English during national exams because it is important in the process of applying to university. Ireen wants to continue her education after secondary school to become a bank manager or a chemist. Her favorite subjects are maths, chemistry, and French. She hopes to see her two young sisters receive the same opportunities. “I am very grateful for this programme, and I hope that it will continue to help our sisters in the refugee camp.” 

If you’re interested in helping more girls like Ireen, explore our back to school gift catalog here to support refugee children as they head back to school.