Akilah’s First Year in Burundi

Many Burundian women think that it is proper to serve men and even when the women are intelligent and think big, they are not able to do anything because they underestimate themselves. Many grow up close to their parents and learn everything they know from them. But I wanted more. – Bernadette Niyoyitungira, Akilah Burundi Class of 2016

Akilah opened a new campus in Burundi, Rwanda’s southern neighbor, in January 2014.

75 full-time students are studying Entrepreneurship or Hospitality Management on a beautiful campus in downtown Bujumbura, the capital.

Annual Team Retreat

Bujumbura’s spectacular Lake Tanganyika provided the backdrop for Akilah’s annual staff retreat a few weeks ago at Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika, one of Burundi’s best hotels. The weekend was a time to reflect, refresh, and reconnect with each other. It was also the first time that many Rwanda and Burundi staff met each other, creating the basis for even better collaboration across campuses.

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Burundi Advisory Board

Private sector leaders on our local Advisory Board have played a central role in marketing Akilah, recruiting students, and helping with operations and logistics.

Our Advisory Board includes three entrepreneurs, two of whom are women, two representatives of the hospitality industry who are both women, a parent representative, and a member of the Ministry of Education.

Carmen Nibigira, a Burundian member of our Board of Directors, has taken on a significant leadership role with the Government of Burundi as the Director General of the National Tourism Office. She has been instrumental in putting together the Advisory Board and continues her active involvement with Akilah Burundi.

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Campus Nursery

One of the most exciting developments coming this year is the nursery. Many Akilah students are current and expectant mothers, and Akilah firmly believes that motherhood should never present a barrier to opportunity. As part of Akilah’s commitment to making education accessible to more women, Akilah’s staff and students will soon take advantage of free day care for children. We have also implemented a new Independent Study plan to accommodate expecting students.

Key Partnerships

  • The U.S. Embassy in Burundi: All Akilah students are members of the International Resource Center where they get free internet access and books for the campus book club. The U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Dawn Liberi, recently visited campus as a guest speaker.
  • Burundi Friends International: Akilah was invited to submit an order for books on their upcoming shipment. We are very excited to add to the growing campus library. We are also pursuing funding for Kindles in order to increase the access to books and dictionaries for each student.
  • The Africa Innovation Prize: After recently expanding to Burundi, AIP hopes to jointly launch a competition for Entrepreneurship students next fall.
  • UN World Tourism Organization: The UNWTO has funded a project to train members of the hospitality industry in Burundi. Akilah will contribute to the project this summer with English sessions taught by our English Instructor Enoch.

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Akilah is grateful to our partners, the Segal Family Foundation (SFF) and the Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation (KLSF), for making this expansion to Burundi possible. SFF announced their commitment to Akilah at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative and made a three-year pledge of $300,000 to support Akilah Burundi.

KLSF, which was established in honor of the late Kristin Linnea Svkarla, is also a major donor to Akilah Burundi. Miss Skvarla dedicated her life to broadening educational opportunities in underserved communities across Africa and the United States. The foundation continues her work through grants and individual scholarships. Kristin was a graduate of Vanderbilt University, the alma mater of Akilah’s CEO & Co-Founder Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes.

Akilah Burundi is excited about what lies ahead. We have a very passionate team, qualified and dedicated students, and are gaining a solid reputation in the community. We project to have more candidates interested in attending Akilah next year than we can accommodate, and are preparing for the next intake in January 2015 by readying our campus for expansion and hiring more staff.

Take a peek inside Akilah Burundi below!

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