'Yes, school reintegration is possible when you get money'

'Yes, school reintegration is possible when you get money'

Publication info

Tite Nyabenda, CARE Burundi

My name is Odette Nizeyimana. I’m 18 years old and come from a poor family, where finding food was sometimes difficult. Unlike many parents who think it is unnecessary to send girls to school, my father always promised me that he would support my education until I got a diploma. In 2012, I passed the national test that provides access to secondary education. It was a great joy for me. Many children can attend primary school, but few of them have the chance to pass this test. I thought it was a door that was being opened for me to fulfill the dream of my father to see me with a diploma. 

Unfortunately, my father died before the following school year opening. My mother’s health was very bad – and still is. She could not supply school material for my studies, so I was forced to abandon the idea of continuing my education. I stayed home for two years and did housework. I kept the dream of one day going back to school, but I was finding it more and more unreachable. 

In 2014, I heard about a community meeting for a new CARE Burundi project called POWER Africa – Promoting Opportunities for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Rural Africa. I learned about the four-year project that would focus on savings and credit. I decided to join. I had seen other projects CARE Burundi had led in my community, and I had seen women learn how to do income-generating activities. I thought this would be a way for me to finance my own return to school. 

After three months of saving in the group, I took out a loan of 15,000 Burundian francs ($9.50) to start an income-generating activity. I bought two chickens for 10,000 BIF ($6) and I kept 5,000 BIF to sell tomatoes and amaranth (a high-protein grain). After a few months, these two chickens had become 16, but only nine survived. When the chicks were 2 months old, I sold them for 81,000 BIF ($52). With the sale of tomatoes and amaranth, I had already earned a 15,000 BIF after repaying the loan to the group. 

In total, I had 96,000 Burundian francs ($61) on me. With this money, I thought about going back to school. But it was difficult to re-enter school two years after dropping out. How could I find a place? Who could support me? It was hard to find a place at this transitional level between primary and secondary school. An idea came to mind: I decided to contact my former schoolteacher in standard 6 to ask for support in this process. He did not hesitate to promise me that he would seek a place for me in standard 7. He knew that I was very active and intelligent in class, and that my education had stopped because of family problems. 

I discovered that reintegrating into school is possible if you have money! With the money I had earned, I bought all the school supplies I needed, including uniforms. At the beginning of the school year, I went back to class. At first, I felt ridiculous, because I was the oldest of the class. But the teachers cited my wisdom and courage for returning to school, and they began to use me as a role model for other girls. 

I was proud to be back at school, and I wanted to set a good example as a businesswoman. I developed a strategy: I would buy bunches of unripe bananas to await full maturity for resale. Any unsold bananas were used in making banana wine, which I would sell on weekends and in the evening after school. 

It wasn’t always easy to combine school and business, though, so I decided to reduce some business activities to stay with the sale of wine only. This activity took less time, and I could do it on weekends when I wasn’t at school. Also, I decided to start farming, because it generates income but requires less time for monitoring. Eventually, I sold two goats and my fields of potato and cassava to buy a cow for 270,000 BIF ($172).  

I am continuing to grow my business, but I remain focused on my dream – and my father’s – to finish my studies. Education is possible only when you have money to support it, so I’m going to save progressively so that I can pay for my university studies. 


Odette Nizeyimana, 18, is doing well in school and in her income-generating activities. With CARE’s help, she developed business skills that allowed her to earn enough money to return to school, two years after being forced to drop out.