When Robin Strickler, an American educator, married Rev. John Rutsindintwarane, a Rwandan Lutheran pastor and community organizer, they began to think about what work they would do in Rwanda. In 2004, conversations with Rwandan Lutherans and educators planted the idea in Robin’s mind for a secondary school.
- The Rwanda School Project incorporates as a non-profit organization in the USA.
- We begin to learn about Expeditionary Learning (EL).
- Robin walks 60 miles in Virginia to raise the first funds for the school.
- Lutheran leaders in Rwanda meet with Dr. Karl Smith, treasurer of the Sierra Pacific Synod (region of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—ELCA) and discuss a site in Rwamagana that would bring the school into partnership with the Lutheran Church of Rwanda (LCR).
- Land for the school and the local congregation is purchased in Rwamagana through funding from Karl’s church, Bethlehem Lutheran in Santa Rosa, CA, and other donors.
- Robin teaches a free English class in Rwamagana for 9 months.
- Our first volunteers come to help and library books begin to arrive.
- LCR and ELCA partner to support Robin as an ELCA missionary in education.
- Dr. Elaine Kasimatis, Sacramento State University, volunteers for a year in Rwanda to help develop the school.
- A committee of Rwandan leaders, including Lutheran Church of Rwanda members, begin to visit government offices and develop strategies for starting a school.
- Robin and Elaine visit schools, architects and biogas sites. We offer teacher training and begin recruiting.
- With Moses Mufua and volunteer Jean Helmick to coordinate the office, we start an English Enrichment Program with a staff of 3 teachers in rented rooms at African Evangelical Enterprise and serve 23 students, all of whom have either stopped school or were disrupted from attending.
- Lutheran Educational Development Association is formed as a non-profit in Rwanda to administer the school.
- Licensed by the Ministry of Education, we start Secondary Form 1 (equivalent to 7th grade) with 24 students.
- The first four rooms of our 10-room classroom building are completed in October and we move in. The building is completed by the end of the year.
- With help from Wheat Ridge Ministries and Rotary International, we build 10 latrines, renovate a small house for our kitchen and build a chicken project.
- We have 43 students in Forms 1 and 2 and 5 teachers; we hire a bookkeeper.
- Four students are part of a Lutheran Youth Delegation that visits the USA for 2 weeks.
- We build dormitory (Sorenson Hall) and Wheat Ridge funds two biogas digesters.
- 72 students in Forms 1, 2 and 3 study 10 O-Level subjects with 6 teachers.
- All 16 of our Senior 3 students pass national exams and 80% are in Divisions I and II.
- Peter Mutambarungu (our history teacher) and two students are invited to visit Silverton Public School in Colorado for a month to study, teach and learn with their EL program.
- With 87 students and 9 teachers, we begin our first A-Level combinations: History – Econ – Geography (HEG) and Math – Econ – Geography (MEG).
- Our Parent Teacher Association is formed.
- We build a school cafeteria (Kitao Hall).
- We begin a partnership with Segal Family Foundation.
- With the help of ELCA, we increase our water catchment and introduce a tutorial program.
- All 28 of our Senior 3 students pass national exams, with 85% in Divisions I and II.
- 8 students attend Rwanda’s first international college recruiting fair in Kigali.
- 107 students and ten teachers participate in Forms 1-5.
- We built a science lab building (Tally Labs).
- Girl’s Faith Encounter, a person-to-person delegation from U.S. to Rwanda.
- We began working with a Princeton in Africa fellow to develop a sustainability curriculum.
- 129 students were enrolled in Forms 1-6.
- In January, we dedicated Kitao Hall (Cafeteria/Kitchen, completed in 2013), Sorensen Hall (Boys’ Dorm, completed in 2012), and Tally Labs (completed in 2014).
- Celebrated the first graduating class of 16 students in November.
- 149 students, 13 teachers and a staff of 20.
- We built a 100 bed girls’ dormitory.
- Established a LEARN. EMPOWER. LEAD. Fund to help in the transition from Rwamagana Leaders’ School to a university.
- 137 students, 9.5 (FTE) teachers and a staff of 23.
- Digital Divide Project; announced a project to set up a networked lab consisting of 20 computer stations along with the solar panels to support the new equipment.
- Pacifique Mucyo received a complete scholarship to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He competed with 2,000 other Rwandan applications to receive one of the 50 full scholarships that covers all tuition, books, living expenses, travel costs, and fees for a four-year bachelor’s degree. Upon completion, Pacifique will return to Rwanda and commit a minimum of five years of his career to advancing the Rwanda agricultural sector.
- 138 students, 14 (FTE) teachers and a staff of 30.
- Completed a computer lab and installed solar panels to give us electricity for more than one hour per day.
- Adopted a five-year master plan to complete the campus building projects and to raise sustaining funds from individuals, churches, and foundations to support annual operating expenses commensurate with the anticipated annual growth.
- Amani Simbayobewe, student speaker from our first graduating class formed a nonprofit foundation called Rukundo which means love. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit raises money to help street kids in Rwanda. Many of our graduates are dedicated to giving back to raise the standard of living for their fellow Rwandans.
- 161 students, 17 (FTE) teachers and a staff of 29.
- Changed the name of our school from Rwamagana Lutheran School to Rwamagana Leaders’ School. This name change was made to reflect the goals of our students to become leaders in Rwandan society. In Rwanda, use of the name Lutheran implies an ownership by the church, and even though we value our Lutheran heritage, we are not affiliated with the Lutheran Church of Rwanda. This is a name change, but not a change in our direction or philosophy. We continue as a Christian school with Lutheran values while at the same time proclaiming the nature of our students as leaders.
- Robin Strickler, our founder, retired. The classroom building was named Founders Hall in her honor.
- Hired Moses Ssenyonjo as our second Head of School.
- 182 students, 17 (FTE) teachers and a staff of 29.
- We connected to a public water source.
- We connected to the Rwanda electric grid.
- On March 14, 2020 our campus closed due to the coronavirus. As a result we:
- decided to continue to support our teachers and staff;
- donated $1,000 to help with the government food distribution;
- spent over $10,000 to distributed over food bags to families of our students and families in Rwamagana.
- Because of the closing of all schools in Rwanda, the school year was changed from January to September, to be consistent with schools in the rest of the world.
- Rwamagana Leaders’ School reopened in September as a matter of safety was opened only for boarding students.
- An additional 60-beds were added to Sorensen Hall so that we now have two 100-bed dormitories.