By Annuarite Ayinkamiye
“Education is a key to success in the future. Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
These are the key words of Francois Hakizumwami, Head Teacher at College Amahoro, a school located in the Kiziba refugee camp. Francois has seen that the above quote is true for all students, including young mothers who are in the midst of their studies. Different from many school leaders in other parts of the world, Francois must also help pregnant girls complete their studies. Teenage pregnancy has an effect on school attendance, school performance and emotional behavior. However, it doesn’t mean that your studies must come to an end.
“It is so hard to continue and complete studies while you are pregnant or while you have a baby but it is possible to do that and reach your future plan,” he said.
“Better late than never” is a phrase many students and expecting mothers keep in mind. This means that despite the fact that they faced this challenge in their life, they can keep moving forward to complete their goal.
“It is necessary to look at your goal rather than thinking about the time and the years you spend to reach it,” Francois said.
The Kiziba refugee camp has many girls who are pregnant and others who had a baby before finishing their secondary school. With 60 students in each class, there are more than 10 girls who are pregnant and 10 girls who have a baby. If the school can’t help these girls, it negatively impacts the entire community.
“My overall role is to provide emotional support to the pregnant students by encouraging them to remain in class and to communicate fears and hopes,” he said. “Teachers, parents and the Kiziba community must accept them at school and consider their pregnancy status in each activity.” His advice to these students is as follows: “You need to have a schedule and take care of your health. Don’t panic. If your studies are causing you to feel anxious or stressed, take the time to rest and relax between assessments. It’s also good to talk to your classmates, your student advisers, a partner or a family member. A healthy diet and hydration will also help your body feel stronger and more able to cope with anxiety.”
College Amahoro puts a priority on supporting the girls who are pregnant and those who have children. The school provides them breakfast ahead of time for better health. Hygienic resources are provided as are beds that enable them to take a nap or rest.
“Studying isn’t just about improving your career,” he said. “Having the self-discipline and drive to improve your education will boost your confidence, communication skills, decision-making abilities and much more.”
Born in the Congo, Francois left his country in 1996 during the civil war in Congo. He became a refugee in Kiziba refugee camp, one of the six camps located in Rwanda. He pursued his primary school at the camp and then continued his upper lever schooling at the Kalengera secondary school. It was hard to complete his studies because his scholarship provided by an organization that supports refugee students came to an end.
“It was a challenging situation,” said Francois.
Despite the fact that his future wasn’t clear due to the lack of scholarships, he was always optimistic and remained strong by focusing only on his future goal. He was able to persist because he knew what he wanted.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else,” he said.
After persisting and finishing his secondary school, he became a teacher at College Amahoro where he taught English and French.
“The art of teaching is in my head and in my heart,” he said. “This is my journey that revolves around the ability to connect with different learners.”
He continued his studies in Education at UTAB/ Byumba where he got a Bachelor Degree in Education. As a result of his experience, hard work and passion for education, he was selected to be Headmaster at College Amahoro here at the Kiziba Refugee Camp. The role requires handling many responsibilities. He plays a role in planning, organizing, supervising and general administration.
He has to plan a number of things in the school requiring the cooperation of the teachers and pupils alike. He convenes staff meetings to discuss different matters with teachers and must also check that the facilities and equipment are adequate.
Being pregnant while you are a student seems difficult but with the help of teachers, parents and society you can successfully be a great student and a great mother as well. I have seen this for myself as I just had a baby while studying at Southern New Hampshire University. As a mum, it is so hard to complete everyday tasks because of the many responsibilities like taking care of our kids, domestic work, a job or internship. In this interview journey, I learned more about how I can manage everyday tasks easily and be a good student.
1. Avoid stress. Take part in physical exercises, relax and rest.
2. Maintain your motivation. Taking a career break after the birth of your child could be advisable.
3. Ask for help. Reach out to those closest to you. Friends and family are almost always willing to help out.
4. Be proactive. Life goals are the ones you dream about happening 'one day' but never today.
I hope these tips will be helpful to other young moms who are studying.
Annuarite Ayinkamiye is a graduate at Southern New Hampshire University. She has a BA degree in Healthcare Management with Concentration in Global Perspectives. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.