Our current project, the Burundi English School (BES) http://burundienglishschool.org/ located in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, is operated by a school board of committed local citizens and is partnered with TAAS. It was conceived as an alternative to the few, very expensive, English schools in Burundi, and as a means to broaden access to English language instruction. As a not-for-profit organization, every effort is made to keep the fees as low as possible. Funds raised in Canada provide bursaries for deserving but needy students. All instruction is in English and the curriculum comes from Alberta. With the help of two volunteers from Alberta (a principal and an elementary teacher) the school opened in September 2008 with three classes: a playschool (for ages 3-4), kindergarten (age 5), and grade 1 (age 6). Subsequent grades have been added yearly and in 2017 we completed our goal of offering an English education from Kindergarten to Grade 9.

Partners in learning

Creating a Culture of Readers in Burundi

Article from Teachers Media International

In the populous, landlocked African country of Burundi, public libraries don’t exist. There are no bookstores. Government-funded schools don’t have libraries, and even many private schools have limited or poor-quality book collections. This impedes a major goal for the people of Burundi: the ability to speak, write, and read in English.

In 2008, a small contingent of Canadian representatives from the Tanbur African Aid Society (TAAS)—an organization with the mission to provide professional and financial resources to empower teachers to prepare students in Tanzania and Burundi to meet the challenges of the 21st Century—traveled to Burundi to open the country’s second English school.

Carol Bahry, a retired principal from the Edmonton Catholic School District in Alberta, Canada, is the past president of TAAS and Project Manager of the Burundi English School. Here, she provides background information on the project, and talks about how the efforts of one teacher are truly helping to build a culture of readers in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Building an English Speaking School

Building an English-speaking school in a country where the dominating language is Kirundi could be daunting on its own. But poverty, a lack of school and classroom space, as well as insufficient access to electricity, technology, textbooks, and other educational materials created significant barriers for the TAAS team.

The original school was “built” in an abandoned seminary that may have started out as something more reminiscent of a horror novel—dangling light bulbs hung from ceiling fixtures that were cracked and crumbling from recent earthquakes in the area.

“We repainted the classrooms and brought in beautiful posters, appropriate for Kindergarten and Grade 1 students,” Bahry says. “Electrical outlets were installed in every classroom. Furniture and educational supplies—all donated—were sent by shipping containers.”

A great start, but Bahry and her team of volunteers soon realized that the most effective way for students and teachers to learn English was through literature.

Since 2008, more than 10,000 books of excellent quality have been donated and sent to the Burundi English School via shipping containers, creating a literacy center that is far more advanced than any other “library” in the country.

Today, this library not only allows students an opportunity to learn about the world around them, but also provides the foundation for an inspiring literacy initiative that is flourishing under the guidance of Claudine Karerwa, a Grade 1 teacher at the Burundi English School with a true passion for teaching.

Strategies for Literacy

Retired principal Katherine Dekker visited the school in Burundi back in 2014, and says she was amazed by Karerwa’s outstanding teaching practices.

“Throughout the six weeks that I was at the school, I watched in awe as a teacher with so few resources and little outside support met the diverse needs of her students. Her program allowed two children without English skills to build their functional language while beginning the process of becoming a reader,” she says.

“Through guided reading, all other students were able to challenge themselves to reach higher levels. Her knowledge of how to teach reading through a Balanced Literacy approach was excellent.”

Guided reading is only one of the approaches Karerwa takes in fostering a love of reading. Based on the respected and well-recognized Alberta curriculum, Karerwa has adapted a number of activities for her Burundi students, such as Total Physical Response. For example, students are taught five commands at one time—sit, stand, turn around, etc—and learn them by doing the complementary physical activity while saying the words aloud.

In Animated Literacy, students learn English verses and jingles. And, a growing word wall helps students expand their vocabulary.

Bahry notes that even with the containers of supplies that have been sent to the school—with more en-route—resources remain limited.

“Claudine teaches in a classroom that is sparse with materials,” Dekker says. “Unlike Canadian teachers where classrooms are filled with a multitude of resources, posters, books, manipulatives, computers and iPads, Claudine’s classroom has desk, chairs, three posters, a blackboard and a few shelves of books.”

Markers of Success

From its humble beginnings in 2008, the Burundi English School has seen an increase of enrollment—up from thirteen students to more than a hundred—with a comprehensive program that takes students from Kindergarten to Grade 8, with plans to expand to Grade 9. To date, dedicated and highly skilled Canadian teachers have filled 35 volunteer assignments.

The heart of this success is deeply rooted in the school’s commitment to fostering a culture of readers.

“Children take the books home and read to their families,” Bahry says. “Incredible results have occurred. Grade 1 students are helping older siblings with homework—these students in high school are able to conjugate all English verbs, but cannot always pronounce them or place them in a sentence. As well, students teach basic English to their parents.”

Students who took the Grade 3 (Alberta) Provincial Achievement Test all met the acceptable standard in Mathematics and English.

“It was not only Claudine’s approach to teaching reading that supported her children into becoming fluent English readers, writers, and speakers. Her dedication, enthusiasm for learning and her love of the children helped Claudine ignite a learning passion in her students,” says Dekker.

“I left Burundi last fall with a humble heart, knowing that through my career I had achieved much. Yet, how much more Claudine was able to give her students with just her desire to help African children find a place in the English world. The children in her class might not have much—but they have what is needed—a talented teacher who cares to give the best that she has.”

BES Parent–Student Handbook

2017 – 2018 School Year

About Burundi English School

The Burundi English School (BES) is a non–profit private English school, which currently offers opportunities for students to learn in Kindergarten through to Grade Ten. All subjects are taught in English and our expectation is that all students will have a sound grasp of the English Language by the time they complete Grade 13. French instruction begins in Grade One. We plan to add one grade each year and by 2020, BES will enrol Kindergarten to Grade 13 classes. Our focus on the English language, was legitimized when Burundi was integrated into the East African Community, where English is the language of administration and trade.


BES motto being “Excellence in Education”, our aim is to maximize teaching and learning experiences for our students and prepare them to enter University with Excellent standards. We will also strive to promote Excellence in the social, physical, and emotional growth of our students. An important factor, which enhances students’ learning, is the amount of time that a student receives individual instruction. We are proud to say that our small class sizes give our students many opportunities to work directly with our excellent teaching staff.

Children learn in an active and enriched environment by using well-developed materials and learning aids. BES uses a Western Canadian Curriculum called the Western Canadian Protocol. This curriculum is internationally recognized, as schools in Western Canada have scored in the top ten percent of the more than 55 countries being tested. Each year, at least two Canadian volunteer educators help with the implementation of this Western Canadian Curriculum. All our teachers are English speaking Burundians, who have a sound grasp of the English language and the Western Canadian Protocol, and are all very good educators. After completing Grade Nine at BES, the students will proceed to High School in the International Pearson system of education. They will write Level O exams after Grade 11; and Level As, after Grade 13.

The founder of our school, Jean Marie Vianney BIZIMANA, had a vision for Burundi English School, where there would not be any social, economic, tribal or cultural barriers for any student, where students of diverse backgrounds, who did not have the economic means, could attend the Burundi English School.

We have offered 13 bursaries for the 2017- 2018 school year. The BES Board of Directors, the Tanbur African Aid Society of Canada and donators from Canada and the United States support school bursaries. These bursaries allow us to build our future based on our Founder’s direction. We believe that by providing a strong education, based on solid precepts, we will contribute to the growth and development of Burundi.

Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandel

Parental Expectations

When you register your child at BES there is an expectation that you will join us in supporting the education of your child. As a non-profit school, we are committed to keeping costs reasonable for our parents, who in turn are expected to pay school fees on time and tend to the following items listed for your convenience.

  1. We are an English-speaking school and therefore it is crucial that you encourage the use of the English language at your home as much as possible. At school, we insist that your child speak English at all times.
  2. Read English books where possible. If you cannot read English have your child read to you.
  3. Establish a time and place for your child’s homework. Set up a routine that is the same every weeknight.
  4. Try to help your child do his/her homework. Please do not do it for them, but make sure it is done.
  5. As much as possible watch English speaking T.V. Channels with your children.
  6. Have your child keep an English Journal and write in it every weeknight

Admission and registration at Burundi English School

For new students, a non-refundable registration fee of BIF 50,000 will be paid for each student regardless of the section they wish to attend. The registration fee is paid on the day of registration of your child/children and a cash receipt of the charged amount is provided by the school administrative assistant.

For current students, the registration fee is required. However, parents are required to confirm that their child/children will continue to attend BES by reregistering them while registration of new students is going on. The confirmation will be materialized by the payment of the half of the first term school fees not later than August 15, 2016. Confirming that your child/children will continue to attend BES will allow school authorities to get classrooms ready in respect of our class sizes policy.

Student registration file

Each student must present several documents referred to as student registration file to register at BES. The student file is a key element in the constitution of administrative Burundi information on each student along their student life.

The elements constituting the student registration file are:

  • An original birth certificate and a notarized copy of it
  • Two valid passport photographs
  • An original of report card from the child’s former school (for those coming from other school)
  • A attendance certificate from the previous school
  • A non-pursuit certificate from the previous school
  • A well filled student registration form provided by the school
  • A student pick-up form provided by the school and filled by parents
  • An authorisation letter from the Ministry of Education for all students coming to register from secondary French public and private schools

Placement test

In its pursuit of ensuring excellence in education, BES continues to innovate ways that can help students start learning in an English environment without any problems. Starting the 2016-2017 school year, all new students from both English and French systems will pass a placement test from grade 1 up to the highest grade.

This level test will allow our teachers to see where to support your child/children in order to have required knowledge to pursue the Western Canada Curricula offered by BES. The result for the placement test will be communicated to parents and students, and the accompanying measures such as extra classes necessary to help students in need reach the required level for the grade they are placed in. A reasonable cost for those extra classes will be charged and communicated to the parents.

School Fees

Parents are expected to pay School Fee along with school material fee. The school material fee has been determined by the school administration after identification of needed materials and this because students must use the same quality materials to bring the harmony in their learning process.

In order to facilitate the learning of children by permitting the school to meet all necessary expenses before a new year starts, the school fees as well as the material fee are to be paid a month before the new school year starts, at the latest by August 15, 2017.

School Fees for 2017 – 2018 school year

Section Fee per term and student Total per student and per year
Kindergarten 1-3 BIF 400 000 BIF 1,200,000
Grade 1 to Grade 6 BIF 470 000 BIF 1,410,000
Grade 7 to Grade 9 BIF 550, 000 BIF 1,650,000
Grade 10 to 12 BIF 600,000 BIF 1, 800,000

School material fee per class

Class List of materials Unit cost Total cost
Kindergarten 1&2
Kindergarten 3
Grade 1
Grade 2
Grade 3
Grade 4
Grade 5
Grade 6
Grade 7
Grade 8
Grade 9

School Fee Payment Schedule

Terms Date
First term August 15, 2017
Second term December 15, 2017
Third term April 15, 2018


School fees are to be paid only into the school bank account (details can be obtained from the school office), and the payment acknowledged by submitting the receipt for verification to the school office. Once verified, the receipt will be returned to the presenter.

NOTE: After these dates, a penalty of 10% will be applied. Non-payment of one month could result in the withdrawal of your child.

If a student leaves part way through a term, the fees for that term will not be refunded. If our School fee has been paid for the year, in advance, fees for the unstudied terms will be refunded.

Our Classes

Class size guideline

Level Maximum number of students in a classroom
Kindergarten 1 to 3 18 students
Grades 1 to 12 20 students


Class Composition

Class Age Birth year
Kindergarten (K1-K2) 3 and 4 years old Children born in 2013 and 2014
Kindergarten (K3) 5 years olds Children born in 2012
Grade 1 6 years old Children born in 2011


Please note: age levels may vary as children proceed through the higher grades; e.g. Grade 4 through 9.

Both Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students attend the same classes. However, the learning expectations are different. As an example, K1 students are expected to orally count to 5, K2 students are expected to count to 10 and K3 students to count to 20.

It has been our experience that the earlier your child attends our school, the greater he/she gains in learning English. It also helps if the student had attended an English pre-school before entering Grade One.

Communication with Parents

Parent Notices

Parent notices will be sent home, via our students, as needed. We will try to provide a French language translation of all notices for parents’ convenience. Moreover, as the school is innovating towards joining the web, parents will be receiving newsletters and other communications electronically. It is therefore required to all parents to provide their email addresses. In case of any inquiry, we encourage parents to also use the info email address that will be set and communicated to you.

Reporting Process

Burundi English School reporting process is a combination of progress report cards and the following conferences:

Meet the Teacher Evening–Friday, October 6 at 3 pm

The evening will begin in the Jean Marie Courtyard where the staff will be introduced to the parent community and then the curriculum and class expectations are presented in the classrooms.

Report Cards and Conferences:

Friday, December 22, 2018

Monday, March 30, 2018

Friday, June 29, 2018

Please note there are no formal classes during these three days. Remember you must set up an appointment time for your interview with your child’s teacher.

Please contact your child’s teacher if you have any questions or concerns. Don’t wait for formal Parent/Teacher conferences.

Student Extra work


Homework is an integral part of every student’s educational program. Homework is set by teachers and should be supported by parents. It is an extension of classroom assignments and should vary according to the individual student’s grade level, abilities and needs. The primary function of homework is to assist and improve in the student’s learning.

Homework assignments begin in Grade One. A place and time should be set, in each home, for Homework activity. The most important part of this activity is communication in English. Insist that your child communicate completely in English during this activity. This includes Reading and Journal writing, which are important parts of Homework.

Library Books/Reading

Reading to and having your child read to you, in English, is an important part of your child’s language development. We have a full range of books in our library for all ages and we encourage you and your child to use our facilities.

Journal Writing

Having your child keep an English Journal at home is a great way to foster the acquisition of the English Language. All grades will take home a journal every night. Kindergarten students will start Journal writing in February.


If it is required for BES staff to administer medicine to children at school in cases of minor illnesses such headaches and minor injuries. For serious illnesses, school staff shall contact student’s parents to take the child to the hospital. Parents must however provide written permission to the school prior to the actual administration of medicine to the above mentioned minor illnesses.

2016-2017 School Year Calendar

Date Events
Monday, September 11, 2017 First day of school
Friday, October 6, 2017 Meet the Teacher Evening
Friday, October 13, 2017 National Holiday
Friday, October 21, 2017 National Holiday
Tuesday, November 1, 2017 All Saints Day
November 27, 28, 2017 First Term Directorate Test
11- 15 December, 2017 First term exams
Thursday, December 21, 2017 Visit of Father Christmas to K1-3 students
Friday, December 22, 2012 Christmas party
December 22- January 7, 2018 Christmas holidays
January 8, 2017 Back at school after Christmas Holidays
February 5, 2018 Unity Day
March 5, 6, 2018 Management Test (Second Term)
March 19-23, 2018 Second term exams
Monday, March 30, 2018 Parent and Teacher Interviews.
March 30-April, 2018 Easter Holidays
Monday 9, April 2018 Back to School after Easter Holidays
Tuesday 1 May, 2018 Labour Day
May 28-29 2018 Directorate Test (3rd Term)
18-22 June 2018 Third term exams
Friday, June 29m 2018 Parents-teachers interviews + Last day of school


Number of school days in 2017 – 2018

Term Starting and closing dates Number of days
First Term: September 11- December 22, 2018 73 days
Second Term January 8 – March 30, 2018 59 days
Third Term 09 April– June 29, 2018 58 days
Total number of Days 190 days

School Hours

Time Activity
7:15 a.m. School doors open
7:30 a.m. Grade 1 to 9 Morning Assembly
7:35 a.m Grade 1 to 9 classes begins
8:00 a.m. Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten Classes begin.
12:00 p.m. Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten Classes are dismissed.
1:00 p.m. Grade 1 to 9 Classes are dismissed.

School Conduct Policy

Student Rights and Responsibilities:

As a BES student, I have rights and responsibilities. As long as I am fulfilling my responsibilities, I am entitled to the full privileges that this school offers.

  • I have the right and the responsibility to learn.
  • I have the right to dignity and respect and the responsibility to provide dignity and respect.
  • I have the right to be safe and secure in this school and the responsibility not to interfere with the safety and security of others.
  • I have the right to learn in a calm, peaceful and quiet environment and the responsibility to maintain that calm and peaceful environment.
  • I have the right to express myself openly and freely and the responsibility to allow others to do the same.
  • I have the right to privacy and my own personal space and the responsibility to respect others property and privacy.
  • I have the right to get help and assistance from others and the responsibility to ask for it.

School Wide Expectations

Students are expected to:

  • Show consideration, courtesy and respect to others and their property.
  • Walk quietly and safely to and from all activities.
  • Use appropriate language and gestures with others.
  • Keep our personal space, classroom and school areas clean.
  • Be on time.
  • Treat all school property with care and respect.
  • Be in class during class time and receive permission to leave the classroom.


The present Parent-Student Handbook constitutes a guiding manual that informs parents, students and other partners about the organization of Burundi English School life. However, it does not include everything that a school can have for its full operation. It important to note then, that in addition to this handbook, there are many other official documents available in the school office and that they can be accessed whenever a parent or student wishes.

You are welcome to inquire any other information you may need for greater knowledge and understanding of the school functioning.