Catching Up With Akilah Burundi

Last year when we launched Akilah Burundi, we had 75 students who signed up for our Diploma programs in Entrepreneurship and Hospitality Management (we currently offer Information Systems only on our Rwanda campus). As we enter our second year in Burundi, our student population has now grown to 148 and we’ve welcomed some amazing new faculty members from all over the world, including Burundi, Kenya, and the United States!


The inaugural class at Akilah has already blown us away with how far they’ve come in their first year. Unlike in Rwanda, French is still the official language in Burundi. For the majority of our Burundi students, Akilah is the first time they are being taught entirely in English in all of their classes. The difference in their English confidence was very palpable from the outset compared to their Rwandan counterparts. Today, every one of the students who came to campus last year is able to communicate with ease.

But what is most exciting is the personal transformation our students undergo. Take Ornella Giraneza for example. As she puts it, she grew up “afraid to ask for what [she] wanted and needed”. Now at Akilah for one year, she raves about the supportive culture that she has experienced here. As for her future plans? “After getting my Entrepreneurship diploma, I want to change my country by providing jobs to people who need them.”

One of the things we are most proud of this year is the opening of our new library! With the generous support from Burundi Friends International and Books for Africa through the crowdfunding site Catapult, we have a well-stocked library with over 6,000 books for our students to dig into, from dictionaries to pulp fiction and everything in between. We can not overestimate the difference this makes for Akilah women: by taking out books, they have the opportunity to improve their English while they’re not on campus, do their own research, and get lost in the world of literature. The library is open 7:30am – 4pm whenever class is not in session, and students can borrow books for up to two weeks at a time. Thanks to eight enthusiastic volunteers, almost all books have been unpacked and the library should be completely stocked by next week!

Akilah Burundi’s impact is not meant to be limited to the four walls of our campus. In a country considered one of the poorest in the world, the need for economic development is evident. Educating women has a proven multiplier effect. When women have greater representation in government and private sector leadership, countries experience lower levels of corruption. With Akilah’s commitment to women’s empowerment through a market-relevant curriculum that focuses on leadership and professional training, we are poised to make a significant impact in Burundi.

None of this would be possible without Segal Family Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action to build the first-ever all-girls college in Burundi. We also received a grant from the Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation to offer significant scholarship support to all students on the campus.

We wish the new students who joined us this year the best of luck, and we have every confidence they will be just as remarkable and determined as our inaugural class!

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