IU in Rwanda

A decade of global change and community partnership

Simon Munyaneza, a doctoral student at Indiana University, is also a cultural ambassador for IU in Rwanda.

If Indiana University had an ambassador to Rwanda, it would be Simon Pierre Munyaneza.

A native of Rwanda, the fourth-year Ph.D. student in literacy, culture and language education in the School of Education is thoughtful and intelligent, a dapper dresser, and truly a cultural liaison for the African country here in Bloomington. He's also set out to make a difference, in his native country and beyond.

For Munyaneza, education is the driver of his heart and soul. The thirst for knowledge was instilled in him at a young age by his father and mother, both advocates for lifelong learning.

Growing up in Musanze, during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Munyaneza lost his parents and one of his siblings. But the spark of learning and his fierce love for education carried him to study at the National University of Rwanda and eventually to Indiana University to study.

"My father always said, 'No one can steal your knowledge,'" Munyaneza said. "You may have a lot of money, but someone may come and steal your money. You may have your house, but maybe there is an earthquake; the house can fall down. But if you have your knowledge, you travel with it and no one can steal it from you."

Having worked in Rwanda as a teacher in various schools from 1999 to 2015, Munyaneza was invited to the first book distribution 10 years ago at Kabwende Primary School by an IU professor, Beth Lewis Samuelson.

"I was invited to join the group from IU and I didn't hesitate," Munyaneza said. "Then the next year they said the same: 'Would you come every year?'"

My father always said, 'No one can steal your knowledge.' You may have a lot of money, but someone may come and steal your money. You may have your house, but maybe there is an earthquake; the house can fall down. But if you have your knowledge, you travel with it and no one can steal it from you.

Simon Munyaneza

Vera Marinova, associate director of the Global Living Learning Community and current director of the Books and Beyond program, met Munyaneza six years ago, when she came to the program.

"Simon is one of the most amazing human beings that you would ever meet," Marinova said. "He's very witty, very high energy, very passionate, very resourceful, and on the ground he's efficient, effective and responsible. In short, we couldn't function without him."

As Munyaneza's involvement grew, so did his role on behalf of IU, assisting with translating the short stories written by the students, shipping the books from the U.S. and eventually finding a printer in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.

"IU knew they could always contact me," he said. "They could always ask me what they can do. And because I was very much aware of the educational reality of Rwanda, I could inform them and help when they needed information for different purposes related to the project."

Description of the following video:

[Words appear: Indiana University presents]

 

[Video: Simon Pierre Munyaneza is honored, along with others, at the Books and Beyond Celebration in Rwanda.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza helps show a Rwandan boy how to use his new prosthetic arm.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza and other employees and students from Indiana University dance with Rwandan children at the Books and Beyond celebration.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza poses for a photo with a group of fellow Indiana University faculty members, students and alums at the Books and Beyond celebration.]

 

[Video: Simon Pierre Munyaneza, a doctoral student at Indiana University’s School of Education, appears on camera.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: I became involved in the Books and Beyond program since 2009, when the first group from IU came to Rwanda to distribute books at Kabwende Primary School in Musanze District.

 

[Video: A woman distributes books to young Rwandan children.]

 

[Video: Two young Rwandan boys smile at the camera while holding the books they just received.]

 

[Video: More Rwandan children smile at the camera and show off their new books.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza appears on camera.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: The growth of Books and Beyond in Rwanda became so successful because Books and Beyond project accepted to work with as many stakeholders as possible.

 

[Video: An Indiana University student leads a classroom. She points at the chalkboard.]

 

[Video: An Indiana University student and two Rwandan children are writing on a chalkboard.]

 

[Video: A Rwandan boy sits at a desk, while writing on a piece of paper.]

 

[Video: An Indiana University faculty member performs an eye exam on a young Rwandan boy. The boy is wearing glasses.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza shows a Rwandan boy how to use his new prosthetic arm.]

 

[Video: An Indiana University faculty member shows Munyaneza and a larger group how to use a 3D printer.]

 

[Video: An Indiana University faculty member leads a class of Rwandan teachers.]

 

[Video: A Rwandan teacher, participating in a class activity, stands up and reads to the group what she has written on her piece of paper.]

 

[Video: A group of young Rwandan children wave at the camera.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: The kind of relationship between IU people and the local community grew up little by little but in a very good and a very positive direction.

 

[Screen goes to black]

 

[IU trident appears]

[Words appear: Indiana University]

[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]

[Words appear: iu.edu]

Studying at IU

A doctoral degree wasn’t always what Munyaneza dreamed of, but as he progressed through his studies it became a natural thought.

"I always knew I would push to have education in my life," Munyaneza said. "I said, 'Why can't I do my bachelors degree?' And then I went to the National University of Rwanda on a government scholarship. After my studies, I said I should look into my master's studies. And then after my master’s, a Ph.D."

Since Munyaneza was familiar with Indiana University from the Books and Beyond program, he asked for information and applied to the university, along with universities in Kenya, France and Uganda.

"In 2014, I got my admission letter, and then I said I should do my best to go study at IU, because this is a unique chance that I have," he said. "That's how I went to study here in Indiana, and I thought about the influence of my parents and my father in this moment."

Simon, wife Jeanette and son LewisView print quality image
Simon, wife Jeanette and son Lewis

To take part in the Ph.D. program at IU Bloomington, Munyaneza left behind a new wife, Jeanette. He returns home for the one-month Books and Beyond program each summer, when he is able to spend time with his wife and now two boys, Lewis, 3, and Ray, 1.

"I was so excited to see them and how they interact with the students from IU visiting Rwanda," Munyaneza said. "You know when you see your family after one year it is like a dream. I have been away and the children, they grew up."

Munyaneza’s family is a big part of the IU Books and Beyond program, and Jeanette and the kids are a constant fixture at Kabwende school, spending time with the group from IU.

"We are one big family," Munyaneza said. "I know the time apart will all be worth it one day, when I can take my knowledge home."

Description of the following video:

[Words appear: Indiana University presents]

 

[Video: Simon Pierre Munyaneza walks in to the School of Education building on Indiana University Bloomington’s campus.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: IU Bloomington is a very big campus; that is the first impression.

 

[Video: Simon Pierre Munyaneza, a doctoral student at Indiana University’s School of Education, appears on camera.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: I remember very smart professors here.

 

[Video: Munyaneza walks in to the lobby of the School of Education building.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza meets with two Indiana University employees at the School of Education.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: They know how to use the rich resources to teach you, and then to help you teach yourself.

 

[Video: Munyaneza appears on camera.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza walks in to the School of Education’s library.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza walks through the School of Education’s library and looks at a book. Close-ups of his hands are shown as he flips through the pages.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza is riding in a vehicle in Rwanda. He looks out the window.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza hugs two friends at Apicur School in Rwanda.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza watches an Indiana University faculty member as he uses a 3D printer.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza poses for a photo with a group of Rwandan teachers.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: I love very much Africa; that's why I take African studies, which means I will be involved in African affairs. And then, if I have a chance, I want to bring back to Africa what I am studying here …

 

[Video: Munyaneza appears on camera.]

 

[Video: Rwandan children dance in a classroom.]

 

[Video: Rwandan students are sitting at desks, working on a writing assignment.]

 

[Video: A large group of Rwandan children smile and wave at the camera.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: … and then to collaborate back with the people here, and then to continue to work as a pipeline from IU to Africa, from Africa to IU. That can be very amazing!

 

[Screen goes to black]

 

[IU trident appears]

[Words appear: Indiana University]

[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]

[Words appear: iu.edu]

 

The legacy continues

Because education was so important to Munyaneza's father, it spurred him to action in the local community of Musanze.

"In 1979, my sister couldn't get into school in Rwanda, so my father took her to the Congo for school," Munyaneza said. "After running into troubles there, my father decided that he needed to start a local school so that all kids had access to education. Because I remember my father was always saying, 'Make sure that you can go to school, because I know it's going to be your future.'"

Gaining support from over 30 members of the business community in Rwanda, Apicur was founded in 1983 year as a secondary vocational school, at which Munyaneza worked as a teacher.

Simon at Apicur schoolView print quality image
Simon Munyaneza at Apicur school.

The school has approximately 525 students. Coursework includes such fields as construction, where a new 3D printer promises to further student learning. But the printer, brought by IU School of Art, Architecture + Design senior lecturer Jon Racek, has applications beyond the classroom: It also provides the opportunity for the school and teachers to design much-needed tools that can be sold to further student scholarship and study.

"Simon has been a great partner in the 3D printing project at Apicur," said Racek. "He has been critical to the success we have had so far and he's also able to give me valuable feedback about what life on the ground in Rwanda. This truly is something that can really impact some people here and make a difference for these students and the community."

Description of the following video:

[Words appear: Indiana University presents]

 

[Video: Scenery of Rwanda. A mountain can be seen in the distance, as well as a house and greenery in front of it.]

 

[Video: The Rwandan flag on a flagpole blows in the wind.]

 

[Video: Two people walk into the Apicur school in Rwanda.]

 

 [Video: Simon Pierre Munyaneza and two teachers walk through the courtyard of Apicur school.]

 

[Video: A close-up of an Apicur school sign.]

 

[Video: Simon Pierre Munyaneza, a doctoral student at Indiana University’s School of Education, appears on camera.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: My father is one of the founders of Apicur. My father came up with an idea and then other parents got involved. He said, “Why can’t we have our own school? Because if we don’t have our own school, our kids are not going to find a way to study.”

 

[Video: Two Rwandan students are sitting at a desk and working on a writing assignment. Both are holding pens.]

 

[Video: A close-up of a Rwandan child’s hand as he holds a pen and writes on a piece of paper.]

 

[Video: An old, black-and-white photograph of Munyaneza’s parents pans on the screen.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: They started a small school, and then the name was Apicur. My parents were very serious at putting their students at the school.

 

[Video: Munyaneza appears on camera.]

 

[Video: An old photograph of Munyaneza when he was young pans on the screen.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza meets with two Indiana University employees at the School of Education.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza helps a Rwandan boy use his prosthetic arm for the first time.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza watches an Indiana University faculty member as he uses a 3D printer.]

 

[Video: Munyaneza walks through the School of Education’s library.]

 

Munyaneza speaks: I grew up with that idea of pursuing my studies, and then, my parents are no longer there, but the idea stayed in my mind. That was like my internal guide.

 

[Screen goes to black]

 

[IU trident appears]

[Words appear: Indiana University]

[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]

[Words appear: iu.edu]

 

What the future holds

Munyaneza hopes to take back his knowledge learned during his doctoral program at IU and start his own school one day.

For now, Munyaneza is focused on completing his last two years of study and beginning work on his dissertation. He has found a community at IU that he holds dear, and he looks forward to what this educational experience will bring home with him to Rwanda.

"At IU, I don't know any strangers," Munyaneza said. "In furthering my studies at IU, I've made many friends who are eager to work together. It is a true knowledge community here. The future will never be like the present, so you should work hard and see what the future holds."