From Beneath a Tree to a Classroom. Smartphone Leasing for Empowerment

They refer to her as Mami. “What makes me happy is seeing a vulnerable child progress, grow, learn, and be able to make a difference in their community.” Beatrice Bamurange, our first partner in Rwanda and the founder of Rise to Shine School, says she had a dream from a very young age that she felt compelled to achieve. She had a strong desire to help people of vulnerable backgrounds, and that desire, today, is also the basis of our partnership. Our team paid a visit to the school to learn about its inspiring story and about the impact our partnership has had.

When Beatrice first started with her mission, she found herself in Rusheshe, a little village in Kigali, and ended up giving free lessons to anyone willing to learn. The village had hardly any infrastructure then, and she was determined to take on the challenge of building something from scratch. The first classes took place under a tree. In 2011 they moved to two actual classrooms, where the children studied in two shifts: the first ones came in the morning and the second ones in the afternoon. Over the years, the community kept growing in size, and today Rise to Shine exists as an institutionalised school for both nursery and primary students from around the area.

Fostering a sense of ownership is critical for the school to progress and to provide better results.

Beatrice Bamurange, Founder of Rise to Shine School

“I never envisioned that success would come from a big amount of money, but rather from vision and commitment. When wealthy families come in to join the school, it’s easy to become distracted by them and lose sight of your initial purpose, which was to assist those in need and who couldn’t afford to pay for their education.” Beatrice states. The school is designed to enrol a small number of children whose parents can afford to pay school fees, and other families, mostly from Rusheshe, are given the opportunity to enrol their children regardless of how difficult it may be to pay the school fees, which the school facilitates.

Rise to Shine is a very welcoming community with  teachers who have a drive and passion to provide basic education and meet other basic needs for vulnerable children. As a way of further improving and diversifying the means of education as well as the general quality of life, Smartphones4good has provided the teachers with pay-as-you-go smartphones which they have been able to use in their teaching. The teachers told us how they are now able to take part in government-organised teacher trainings via Zoom, study English via Youtube, and find new reliable content online for their teaching. Staying in touch with family members has also become more convenient with the option to video call. 

A Rwandan lady smiling and holding her phone
Calinie Niyibizi, a nursery school teacher, uses her smartphone for communication and learning English. Picture: Silas Uwi

Rise to Shine School has ambitious plans for the future. Some of them include upgrading their infrastructure to create an even better environment for the children to learn in. Beatrice is passionate about the opportunities of e-learning, and they have now invested in “a computer lab with wheels”, which is supposed to transform and modernise the way the children are learning. Rise to Shine hopes to impact the community at large with this improved infrastructure by including activities during holidays where children from Rusheshe can also use the library and access other resources available.

When asked what kept pushing her, she replied, “It is like a force force within you, I can’t explain it… just seeing the concrete results of kids progressing, those ones who had no hope of getting into school in the first place…” Beatrice believes in the power and might that an African child can gain through education and is willing to fight for that greatness to spread throughout the Rusheshe community.

School children running outdoors
Movement clears out the mind. Picture: Tuulikki Antere

Rise to Shine is but one school in Rwanda that we are working with. By leasing affordable smartphones to teachers, we have been able to provide them with opportunities for e-learning, more effective communication, and access to finance without having to show months’ worth of bank statements. You have a chance now to join our journey and contribute to a sustainable business by sending us your used smartphone(s)!