Education in Burundi, like all infrastructure in the country, suffered heavily during the turmoil of the civil war. Although free mandatory public education has recently been established, funding and teachers are lacking. Completion is also low, with only about half of students making it all the way to fifth grade. Even more discouraging, many children spend their days looking for food, or can’t focus in the classroom because of hunger and the devastating effects of chronic malnourishment. With nearly fifty students to every primary school teacher a student that makes it to secondary school has to be extraordinarily dedicated and often very lucky as well. A bachelors degree is an amazing accomplishment, and it has great value both for the person who earned it and for Burundi as a whole.
Burundi has a dearth of educated professionals to fill needs for infrastructure design and implementation. Water and power systems are among the major concerns, and both require educated engineers and workers to plan and build. A highway system, medical care, national power, all these systems require extensive planning and support, not to mention expensive materials that need to be manufactured or acquired through foreign trade.
Foreign relations, including trade, are another area where education is necessary. As more and more Burundians conduct business there is a need for more than just statesmen to have friendly contact with other countries. Education in a multinational context helps to prepare people for the challenges of international business
There are political concerns as well. Burundi is a newly established democracy. People who know about their government and the world, who are informed and can eagerly participate, are essential to a functioning democratic system. This is especially essential as Burundi has a volatile political history and has only just come out of a decades long civil war.
Education is not a cure-all for the struggles that the people of Burundi face, but it is an incredibly useful tool, and it may be the only way out of the poverty and hunger that is the current reality.
Hope Africa University is helping fill this need.