The Power of Collaboration
At the invitation of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa (IHSA) — a Tanzanian community of nuns — GEC became an integral partner in the building, launching, and growing of the Kitenga Girls Secondary School.
How Are Kitenga Students Planning on Changing Their World?
In the far northwest corner of Tanzania is Kitenga Village: dirt roads and pathways, distant markets, no running water or electricity; limited schools and health care; a land deforested from cutting wood for cooking; and shockingly high rates of disease, malnutrition, and mortality — this is life’s fabric for 7,000 residents here. It’s a hard life, and especially so for girls and women, as the destructive cultural traditions of female genital mutilation (FGM) and the bartering of female children into marriage remain prevalent.
The Kitenga Girls Secondary School (KGSS) was GEC’s first partnership with the intent to support, enhance, and accelerate the work and vision already underway by the school’s founders, the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa (IHSA). By securing more than $2.5M in financial support and providing requested planning expertise and thought partnership, GEC became an integral part of transforming the lives of girls in northern Tanzania.
Partnership Bears Fruit
Through deep partnership and collaboration, and over the course of five years of hard work by all, the Kitenga Girls Secondary School was opened in January 2017. Today, three classes have already graduated and there are more than 200 girls on campus finding new pathways for themselves. At full vision, the school will educate and nurture more than 300 adolescent girls.
When GEC joined hands with the IHSA in 2012, the Sisters had been working to make this dream come true for many, many years. At that time, the progress they had so far made yielded one small classroom building and the dormitory’s foundation. There was no road, water, or electrification. In these early days, while the Sisters focused on the completion of the student dormitory and housing for teachers, GEC focused on funding and building two key “green designed” academic centers needed for the opening of the school: the Alice Kryzan Memorial Library and the Science Center. GEC also helped ensure there was enough water for the young school by funding and building a deep-bore well. To improve access and student safety, GEC likewise funded and built a 4.5 km road into the school.
Over the following years, GEC continued to be a critical infrastructure partner, aiding and strategizing the execution of key facilities that allowed the school to grow and improve exponentially.
The infrastructure additions have included visitor housing (such as Betsy’s House) and the Theodore and Pauline Cohen Trust Girls Dormitory, the school’s second dormitory. GEC has also provided the expansion of solar electrification on campus, and because of water scarcity, built more systems to capture and harvest the seasonal rains.
Beyond infrastructure, GEC — through the generosity of its donors — has provided academic materials and programs, ranging from blackboards and desks beakers and books, and many other day-to-day items critical to the girls’ success and well-being. Critically, from the beginning and continuing to today, GEC has underwritten school fees for 30% of the student body, ensuring that those most in need can have equal access to the unique and outstanding education offered at KGSS.
The school is making a difference in girls’ lives. To date, 100% of Kitenga graduates have continued on in their education in a country where only 13% of girls do.
Our Partners: The Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa
A Tanzanian faith-based community, the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa (IHSA) is dedicated to improving the quality of life for its extended neighbors, especially women and girls. An order of about 150, they primarily serve the Mara Region of Tanzania and are based in Musoma, along the shores of Lake Victoria.
The Sisters have a track record of successfully advocating for and providing services to the most marginalized. Examples of their work in education include having run one of the highest-performing secondary schools for girls in the region and currently managing a school for deaf and mute children. For more than 20 years, they have operated an agricultural project, health clinic, and primary school in Baracki, a village similar to Kitenga.
Almost 30 years ago, the Sisters were granted 1,000 acres by the Government of Tanzania for a community-development project. The Sisters’ goal was to transform an impoverished, underserved community through the transformative power of girls’ education. Over the years, they established a health clinic, ran vocational programs, and started a kindergarten program for boys and girls. Yet they struggled to build the cornerstone of their efforts, a residential school for marginalized, at-risk girls. The Sisters sought a committed partner that could truly help bring their bold dream to fruition.
Eleven years ago, GEC joined hands with the Sisters to help make their vision come true. This proved to be a critical and pivotal partnership for both, as together we built the school and opened doors five years later. GEC was able to bring much-needed resources, planning expertise, project management, and thought partnership to jointly carry out the Sisters’ vision and create an outstanding residential school for some of the world’s most marginalized girls.