Shekinah Center: Holistically transforming rural communities
/ Micheline Barandereka, Founder & CEO
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Burundi is a young country and hence a large share of the population is currently in education or at least in need of education. Burundi’s spending on education is above average when considering share of GDP, yet low in total amounts. Burundi is considered the poorest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita (221 USD, 2021 ). Its Human Development Index ranking is 187 out of 191 countries. 80% of the population work in agriculture and 56% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Primary education is free and enrollment is high, yet education quality is low – especially in rural areas. The completion rate for primary education is estimated at 34% . In grade 4, less than 30% score above the minimum French readings skills and only 60%achieve the minimum score in maths. Rural children are 3x less likely to complete secondary education and only 7% of those who reach post-primary education come from the poorest households.
Shekinah Center’s vision is to transform rural communities. The starting point in 2011 was to offer high-quality, student-centred education to 300 low-income youth in Mwaro province. Since then, the approach has evolved into a holistic set of activities to empower families. Through careful analysis of community needs and feedback loops, Shekinah Center has deliberately extended its range of activities over the years and started to focus more on economic empowerment and health. These are the areas in which the organization has identified root causes that prevented students from reaching their full potential. Parents get a goat for each child in school and through a year-long program, pregnant women receive health, nutrition & agricultural training. Graduated women are grouped into Village Saving Groups where they learn about financial literacy & business management to earn an income & enhance their financial status. Only the most vulnerable families can join Shekinah and there is a strong ownership among parents and students. Default and drop-out rates are close to zero. Now in year 13, their first students will soon graduate from secondary school and apply for universities - an educational path that would have been almost impossible for most.
- 25%average increase in household income by women supported by Shekinah
- 20%decrease in malnutrition rate amongst Shekinah students
- 100%of students pass the national leaving exams (best performing school in the entire province)
About the organization
Shekinah Center was set up in 2011 by Micheline Barandereka. She founded the grassroots organization to provide an excellent education to underprivileged children who are living in remote areas. The school covers the entire education path from nursery to secondary school. Shekinah Center also offers economic empowerment (agricultural training & financial literacy & Village Saving Groups) and health programmes. In 2018, Shekinah Center received an award by the Burundi Government for the social impact of its programmes and in 2023 the International Women Day Award for promoting girls schooling and women empowerment in rural areas. In 2022, Micheline Barandereka received the Grassroots Champion Award by Segal Family Foundation.