Beat goes on for Bu­run­di pro­ject

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS -

The drum beat, pre­ce­ded by a tri­bal yell, soun­ded off-stage be­fore au­dience members saw five men clad in co­lour­ful swaths of fa­bric charge on­to the rai­sed plat­for­matWest­wood Sr. High School lastWed­nes­day night.

The show was part of the cur­ri­cu­lum night where stu­dents in­vol­ved in theWest­wood Bridge to Bu­run­di Pro­ject al­so had a chance to up­da­ted the school com­mu­ni­ty on their pro­gress. And there was a lot to re­port. The on­going ef­fort hel­ped fund the ope­ning last Sep­tem­ber of two class­rooms.

As ma­ny as 95 grade-one chil­dren are being taught at the new school­house, cal­led L’école pri­maire Rwo­gaWest­wood.

The school is lo­ca­ted in Rwo­ga, a village in Bu­run­di, on the Afri­can conti­nent.

West­wood tea­cher Jean-Claude Ma­ni­ra­ki­za, who­comes fromR­wo­ga andw­hoi­ni­tia­ted the pro­ject, re­tur­ned last month fro­ma five month stay in his for­me­rho­me­vil­lage.

"We have hi­red two tea­chers from the mi­nis­try of edu­ca­tion (in Bu­ru­di)," he said, ad­ding, "We’ve just fi­ni­shed two other class­rooms so next year we’ll have four classes."

West­wood’s fun­drai­sing ef­forts must still amass en­ough­mo­ney this year to buy roo­fing ma­te­rials for the new rooms, which will be used next year for grade-two classes.

And high school stu­dents in Rwo­ga are now able to stu­dy in ligh­ted class­rooms du­ring the eve­ning thanks to so­lar pa­nels Ma­ni­ra­ki­za pa­cked in his suit­case be­fore lea­ving Ca­na­da.

"I didn’t know how hard it would be to get so­lar pa­nels (in Bu­run­di), so I took them with me ins­tead of a lot of clo­thing," he ex­plai­ned with a laugh.

Du­ring his trip, Ma­ni­ra­ki­za hel­ped ins­tall at the school a 1,000 litre wa­ter ba­sin used to col­lect rain wa­ter.

A sink and fau­cets were ins­tal­led be­low the ba­sin so sa­ni­ti­zed rain­wa­ter can be used by stu­dents for hand wa­shing.

And the pro­ject has ad­ded a "me­di­cal health as­pect" to its man­date.

"Ori­gi­nal­ly, it was sup­po­sed to just be an edu­ca­tio­nal pro­ject but we have had some part­nersw­ho want to teach things in the village like ba­sic hy­giene, ba­lan­ced nu­tri­tion and ba­sic health," Ma­ni­ra­ki­za ex­plai­ned.

The beat goes on

The five drum­mers who took to the stage fol­lo­wing the pro­ject update were members of Rhythm Umu­ri­sho.

Though each now calls Montreal home, the men were born in Bu­run­di where drum­ming is an art form pas­sed from ge­ne­ra­tion to ge­ne­ra­tion.

Au­dience members were trea­ted to a unique, li­ve­ly show that in­clu­ded cho­reo­gra­phed drum rou­tines and dan­cing.

Rhythm Umu­ri­sho de­ri­ved its name from the umu­ri­sho tree, which is in­di­ge­nous to Bu­run­di and is used to make the dis­tinc­tive drums.

The name means "trees that make drums speak."

The tops of the drums, made from ox or cow skin, are fas­te­ned with woo­den pegs, while drum­mers play the so­lid (and ve­ry hea­vy) drums with sticks cal­led imi­ri­sho.

Mi­chel Mbo­nim­pa, a mem­ber of Rhythm Umu­ri­sho, said while the group plays at cul­tu­ral or spe­cial oc­ca­sions, it sup­ports West­wood’s Bridge to Bu­run­di Pro­ject whe­ne­ver pos­sible.

"It’s a good thing to build a school in the village," Mbo­nim­pa said, re­cal­ling how he had to walk 20 ki­lo­metres each day for his own schoo­ling in Bu­run­di.

"It is ea­sier when the school is right there so more chil­dren can learn," he said.

History of pro­ject

West­wood stu­dents adop­ted the Bridge to Bu­run­di Pro­ject last year af­ter hea­ring Ma­ni­ra­ki­za’s sto­ry du­ring a student lea­der­ship camp.

The youn­gest of six chil­dren, Ma­ni­ra­ki­za, who now lives in Pin­court, spoke of his life in Rwo­ga where he was born.

His child­hood in­clu­ded wit­nes­sing ci­vil war and ge­no­cide bet­ween Hu­tu and Tut­si groups.

And the day his fa­ther, a lo­cal mer­chant, was drag­ged from the home when Ma­ni­ra­ki­za was eight years old.

"My fa­ther was killed be­cause (the Tut­si’s) said he was in­vol­ved in Hu­tu po­li­tics," Ma­ni­ra­ki­za said.

The fa­mi­ly was unable to bu­ry the pa­triarch be­cause his bo­dy was ne­ver re­tur­ned.

Ma­ni­ra­ki­za and his fian­cé left Bu­run­di for Bel­gium in 1993, af­ter his mo­ther was killed.

Though he has made a life in Que­bec with his wife and daugh­ters, Ma­ni­ra­ki­za said he ne­ver for­got his village.

Be­fo­reWest­wood stu­dents adop­ted the pro­ject as their own, stu­dents from Beur­ling Aca­de­my in Ver­dun, where Ma­ni­ra­ki­za for­mer­ly taught, al­so contri­bu­ted to the ef­fort.

PHO­TO KRIS­TI­NA ED­SON

Members of Rhythm Umu­ri­sho, who come from Bu­ru­di, per­for­med at West­wood Sr. High School last week.

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