The New Times (Kigali)

17 December 2012

Rwanda: Row Over Girubuntu Primary School Ownership

MORE than 300 pupils of Girubuntu Primary School in Kicuciro District do not know whether they will be able to start school next month, following a bitter row over the school ownership.

Girubuntu Primary School located on two hactares of land, Kabeza Cell, Kicukiro Sector, was built by A Partner in Education (APIE), an international non governmental organisation from the UK.

The organisation then donated the school to Girubuntu Education Centre, a local organisation, under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2010, a copy The New Times has obtained.

Joanna Mann, the Country Representative of APIE, signed on behalf of the organisation, while Eugene M. Rudasingwa, signed on behalf of Girubuntu Education Centre on January 25, 2010.

The donor also asked Kicukiro district authorities to transfer the land to Girubuntu Education Centre by legal means.

However in a dramatic move, in July, this year, the donor turned up and asked to re-own the land on which the school is located, The New Times understands.

The school has nine classrooms, a library and one administration block.

"These people told us that they again want to own the land but that we shall continue using and owning the school. This forced us to consult Jules Ndamage (Mayor of Kicukiro district), who told us it was not possible," Rudasingwa, who is among the founding members of the school, told this newspaper.

"But we were shocked that in only days, the Mayor had changed sides, and he came with 13 security personnel who broke into our offices and locks were immediately changed."

Rudasingwa who claims that the donor has reclaimed what he had donated, says that the school name has already been changed from Girubuntu Nursery and Primary School to Umubano Primary School.

"Umubano" is a series of social action projects initiated by the UK Conservative Party.

When contacted, Mayor Ndamage calmed parents, saying that all the changes were legal.

"The school now belongs to Umubano, and changing management or the name of the school has no effect to its smooth running," Ndamage said.

In an email sent to this newspaper yesterday, the Country Director of APIE, Kate Hannon, says although her organisation, "did originally wish to build a formal partnership with Girubuntu Association, this was not possible due to actions taken by Girubuntu over the past two years."

The email does not give details of the actions in question.

It adds, "After a detailed review of each organisation's behavior and documents during this time, the relevant government authorities have verified all of APIE's claims and actions to date."

Hannon says that she cannot discuss the issue further, and that the law will take its course. However, she confirmed that her organisation is now in formal partnership with Umubano Primary School.

"This new school has legal registration and permission to operate from the facilities in question, and it will operate from January 2013 under a completely new administration," adds the email.

Janvier Gasana, the deputy director education quality standards, in the Ministry of Education, said they were aware of the wrangles but are yet to find an amicable resolution after listening to the contending parties.

However, some parents of Kanombe Sector and other neighbouring places in Kicukiro district whose children go to Girubuntu primary school, have expressed worry over the fate of their children.

"We are totally confused, school administrators are not communicating to us officially about what is happening although we are witnessing abrupt and strange changes taking place to our school; but what is so worrying is that this might directly affect our children academically," said Clementine Uwamahoro, one of the parents.

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