In many sub-Saharan African countries, access to higher education for girls has been historically been limited. This inequality in education is still common in rural societies, where girls are strongly influenced by a patriarchal tradition that grooms them only for marriage. But times are changing and many African governments have passed legislation giving girls the same access to education as boys. And the first step is to give them a good secondary education.

In Rwanda, there have been efforts to encourage that trend, with the government launching its own initiatives and supporting some private ones to create all-girls schools. The effort has been boosted by a partnership with a group of Americans. Sister Ann Fox of the US city of Boston met with a female lawmaker from Rwanda, Alosia Inyumba, and together they created what came to known as the Maranyundo Initiative.

Sister Fox says the goal of the project is to provide community-based education for young girls. Working with women from Sister Ann?s parish, they built a boarding school in the rural Rwandan province of Bugesera. Sister Ann says the initiative ?represents an international partnership of educators, government leaders, and dedicated visionaries aimed at helping Rwandan girls forge a bright future for their people.? 

The school opened earlier this year with an enrollment of 60 students. Sister Fox says the target is to enroll almost 200 students within three years. ?The parents have been very receptive,? she says. The school will be administered by local teachers and a group of Catholic nuns based in area. Students will be admitted according to financial need and their scores in national exams.

Sister Ann says even though some students come from the city, the emphasis is on rural students from all over the country. ?The girls were very receptive and pleased that they are now able to get a good education,? says Sister Fox.