This is what one of our edupreneurs in Rwanda exclaimed after launching an afternoon preschool session to cater to the poorest in her community. Imena School has been providing a quality education to students in Kigali from Pre-school to Grade 6. You may remember this school from my blog post “What Quality Looks Like.” But for this engaging and inspiring school owner, what she was doing just wasn’t enough.
Antionette has long been wanting to find a way to access the poorest children in the community surrounding her home and school. She already charges a very low tuition, but in a culture where preschool is not a priority, she felt there was still not enough access. So she developed the idea for an afternoon preschool session.
“The teachers were complaining about needing more money, and I just kept thinking, how can we do more? So I realized that if I have students come in the afternoon, the teachers can make more money by teaching a full day, and more students can gain access to early childhood education,” Antionette explained.
At first, Antionette was worried about how to provide this service in a sustainable way — a way that encourages the poorest in the community to be involved, but also gains additional revenue for the teachers and school. The idea for weekly tuition was launched. Imena school decided to try charging 1000RWF per week for each student to come to preschool. This is only $1.50 per week, or roughly 30 cents a day.
At first, 90 students signed up for their first day of preschool. Antionette decided not to wait until the new school year to begin. If she could get students into school who were previously not learning at all, why wait? Then, as word got around, more and more students started showing up. Antionette had to station the secretary at the gate in order to track attendance, tuition, and who was entering and exiting the school. It was more than they expected! Parents quickly started asking for uniforms, and other services to show that their student was a part of the Imena community. Now, more than 120 additional students are enjoying the benefits of a quality education. If you enter Imena school in the afternoon, you can’t help but smile as you see all of the preschoolers singing and dancing their way from A-Z and 1-20.