Burundi’s Kigutu International Academy: A Model School with Deep Ties to ALA

In October 2020, a new school opened in Burundi unlike any that had come before: Kigutu International Academy (KIA), a STEM-focused secondary school that seeks to “develop a new generation of problem solvers, change-makers and entrepreneurial leaders for Burundi and beyond.” 

KIA is a locally-rooted school with unique features aligned to the circumstances of the local community. But the imprint of ALA on the Academy runs deep. KIA is a pioneer school in ALA’s Anzisha Educator Accelerator, and KIA’s founding leadership includes ALA alumni, ALA students, and ALA board members. These avenues for knowledge transfer have fostered new ideas about curriculum, strategy, school design and more.

As KIA’s team looks forward to successfully completing its first academic year, Clare Korir (Kenya) and Don De Dieu Iradukunda ‘15 (Burundi) reflected on how their journey in education so far has been strongly supported by the ALA network.

Clare Korir

Clare, the Director of Academic Programs at KIA, began her career in Africa as a Teaching Fellow in ALA’s African Studies and Entrepreneurial Leadership departments. Through a connection made by Frank Aswani, then Vice President at ALA, Clare then joined the founding team of the Mpesa Foundation Academy in her native Kenya as the Lead Operations and Development Consultant. Clare then transitioned to African Leadership University (ALU) to join their founding team in Rwanda to teach in their Leadership Core program. In 2018, Liz Berry Gips (an ALA Trustee and Executive Director at KIA) recruited Clare for her current position.

In 2019, Clare became a fellow of the Anzisha Education Accelerator, a program that has been of tremendous value to her journey as a leader in education on the continent. “Fellowship with other people who are facing similar challenges, and who have similar aspirations, as you has been very supportive and edifying. . . Having an institution like ALA that has opened its doors to schools like ours has been helpful.”

“When I joined as ALA staffulty [in 2011], one of the things I really appreciated and learned was the importance of building a community. During my time there, my colleagues and I became friends. We all supported each other and held each other to very high standards.” She has sought to lead her team, which includes ALA alumnus, Don de Dieu Iradukunda ‘15, in a similar way.

Don De Dieu, who is the Operations Coordinator, has been instrumental in the planning, building, and now day-to-day operations and development of KIA in his home country. A conversation with a fellow alumnus at ALA’s 2018 decennial celebration led to an introduction to Liz Berry Gips, initiating his engagement in Kigutu. With his double degree in Agribusiness Management and Food Industry Management at Michigan State University, Don de Dieu was well placed to develop an agricultural curriculum for KIA – linked to his deep passion to support Burundian farmers and establish food security. KIA students will identify, develop and use best practices in farming and agriculture and establish enterprises in Kigutu and further afield. 

Don De Dieu Iradukunda

Don De Dieu also helped design the academy’s learning spaces, select the inaugural class, and recruit educators to KIA – including lead teacher and former ALA biology teacher Matt du Aime! 

Don De Dieu credits much of his successes at VHW and KIA so far to the education received during his time at ALA. The most notable transfer of institutional knowledge is evident in being entrusted to lead the KIA’s Leadership and Student Enterprise Program. This opportunity was afforded to him due to his completion of the course as an ALA student and experience in his own entrepreneurial ventures in Burundi. Sparked by his tenure as student sports representative and basketball captain at ALA, he immediately realized the need for a basketball court at KIA. Without any funding, he literally broke ground alongside a team as they dug what will, in a month’s time, become a fully functional court. 

Kigutu International Academy is an initiative of Village Health Works (VHW), a clinic whose unique mission extends beyond providing quality healthcare. VHW’s holistic model is helping develop Kigutu by providing agricultural development, community engagement, and education services which now include the school. Find out more about KIA’s work here.