Educating the Rich and Poor Together: The Story of the Maranyundo Girls School

Posted by Sister Ann Fox

As we struggle in our schools with issues of racism, economic disparity, and achievement gaps, we would not think that African schools would have much to offer us. We often dismiss them as places where students simply learn facts and then “regurgitate” them for tests. However, if we look deeper into some of the characteristics of African schools we might find some practices that could positively challenge our educational methods.

The following description from Rwanda is an excellent starting point. I am grateful to our friend, Sr. Juvenal , for allowing me to reconstruct her extemporaneous speech here. Sister, a member of the Benebikira Congregation, is known to many in South Boston as she  stayed with us at the Paraclete while doing graduate studies.

For those of you fortunate to hear her at the Segal Foundation Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, you will note there are additional points left out of her original speech because of time constraints.


Based on a speech given at the Segal Foundation Conference, April 6, 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya by Sr. Marie. Juvenal Mukanurama, Head of the Maranyundo Girls School in Nyamata, Rwanda.


Thank you for the opportunity to speak to all of you. Today, I would like to share with you the story of how we educate the poor and the rich students together at the Maranyundo Girls School in Rwanda.

The very first thing we must do is to show the poor girls from the rural areas that we know they can do as well as the girls from the city. We show them that they will not be treated any different from others and that we expect the same from all girls, no matter what their background.

There are many customs or practices in schools administered by the Benebikira sisters that we have found to be effective in helping to create a school community where there are no divisions due to background.

For Instance, when the girls first arrive we inspect each piece of luggage. For some girls we add what is missing, such as soap or toothpaste; for other girls we give back to their families items that are not needed, such as jewelry. We believe uniforms are important because no one will be able to tell from their appearance who comes from a family of wealth or from poverty. Each girl receives her set of clothes, puts on her uniform and enters the school campus where she is greeted by her “mother.” Let me explain.

The night before the arrival of new students, we have a bowl with slips of paper with each of the new student’s names. Girls from the class above pick a name from the bowl and that student becomes her daughter.   As mother she takes responsibility for orientation of her daughter on every aspect of school life. A girl from the rural area may need to be shown how to use a shower; a girl from the city might have to learn how to wash her clothes in a bucket. They are assigned to the same bunk bed and of course there is a grandmother who also has a bed near them. They become family.

Another thing we do is keep information on who receives financial help private. Only the head of school and the buser know this information.

In our culture, meal time is when we socialize and share.   We assign students to tables of ten and change the assignments at least once during the year so that the girls have an opportunity to get to know their classmates. For us, an important characteristic of an educated person is the ability to make friends and socialize with people from all types of background. Our meal time provides this opportunity.

On our monthly visiting day, some families come by car, some by foot. We do not allow them to bring special treats for their daughters.  They share snacks and tonics provided by the school. For those who have the means and want to contribute, they may leave money in a special basket. At the end of the visiting day, the girls count what is there and decide what kind of treat they will buy for all the students.

I would like to close my remarks by telling you that although when our poor girls from rural schools first come they do have a difficult time with school work, but by the end of the first year they are competent, and by the time of graduation they are among our very best performing students.

Paul McDevitt Bio

Paul McDevitt believes that, since we go through life only once, we should do all we can to follow the advice of Jesus to love ourselves and others and our Creator. To advance this philosophy, he steps beyond the services offered by Modern Assistance Programs, Inc. to deeply engage with a troubled world.

For more than four decades, he has worked in soup kitchens, visited the imprisoned, worked for criminal justice reform, and supported immigration projects. He has helped guide and sustain food banks, substance abuse recovery homes, inner city youth projects, education enrichment programs and homeless shelters. He has been a valued voice of wisdom for many Boston-area nonprofit organizations.

Still, despite his many leadership responsibilities, Paul has never declined to assist the many individuals who seek his guidance.

Paul is a graduate of Boston College High School and Boston College. He holds a master’s degree in education from University of Massachusetts Boston.

A Dorchester native, Paul and his wife Massachusetts Auditor Suzanne Bump live in South Boston and the Western Massachusetts town of Housatonic.

This Old House – Tracing the Steps from Convent to Paraclete

In 2004 when we faced the possibility that our wonderful old St. Augustine’s convent would be sold for condominiums, we realized how important buildings are in the life of children and a community.  Originally the building housed over 30 Notre Dame Nuns who taught the 1,000 students who attended school next door.  As the numbers diminished in both the school and the convent, the Nuns decided in 1996 to give the building back to the parish with the hope it would continue the education mission for which it was constructed.  Continue Reading

Field Trip to Harvard’s Museum of Natural History

The field trip I went to was awesome because at the Museum of Natural History there was a lot of history.  My favorite part was when we went on a scavenger hunt. We had to look and see very very closely and see which paw matched the animal on the paper.  The field trip   was so much better than staying home on a Saturday doing nothing but watching TV all day.

If you were there you would know how amazing it was.

My Father Richard Stringer came and chaperoned the trip and he thought the history there was amazing once we got upstairs and explored everything!


Beyonce fifth Grade

Dance/Movement at the Paraclete

A new program to the Paraclete, the group focus is to create a safe and creative space where the children can learn and explore through dance and movement.  Led by Stefani Danahy, a graduate student in Lesley University’s Dance Movement Therapy masters program, the goal is to give the students a sense of belonging.  The group is a space where the children will learn to express themselves through movement. Throughout the year, the children will be taught the dances of the various cultures within Paraclete Academy.  The hope is that they will gain a better understanding of our differences and connections in movement.  It is amazing to see the similarities each culture has when we look at them through the lens of dance and movement.  It is a language that everyone of us speaks.

Hunger Games Movie Review

By Stanley Aneke

Last Friday, students from the Paraclete went to go see the movie The Hunger Games. You had to have good behavior and you had to read the book, and you had to attend the Paraclete regularly. The movie was well organized and baffled my mind.

The Hunger Games was really sad, it almost made Ms. Lucero cry. The actors and the actresses acted the movie out really well. Did you think the book was better than the movie? Think about that question. Ask Stanley, Ms. Lucero, Ms. K what you think.

My favorite character were Rue, Katniss and Peeta.  The best part was when Katniss and Peeta won The Hunger Games. I was so happy and amazed about what happened. The part that I disliked was when Katniss just forgot about Gale. I personally thought Gale won Katniss’s Heart.

Marian and Crystal liked the movie. Did you? The movie had a lot of feeling and action in it. What would you grade the movies overall percentage? For me it was a 95%. What about you?

Paraclete Gossip Column

Paraclete student Crystal Aneke has started a gossip column for the Paraclete Chronicle called “Gossip Girl.” Her first column revolves around the budding romance between two of the dogs at the Paraclete: Scout (a young English Pointer) and Boo (a black Labrador Retriever many years his senior). Check out the details below.

Boo and Scout in love? Find out now on the latest addition to part one of Gossip Girl featuring your host, Crystal Aneke.

So today I saw the cutest thing ever! Guess what? So are you ready? OK, so I saw Boo and Scout sharing a bone, then later that day I also noticed Boo and Scout awfully close. The craziest thing of all, Boo denied Ms. Lucero giving her food! Can you believe that? Boo never denies food from Ms. Lucero. NEVER!

So I saw Boo and Scout sharing a bone today on the stairs! That’s how I knew it was a official. Scout stared at Boo’s brown eyes. Boo then gracefully slept on Scout’s arm. “Awwwwwww,” I screamed. “Drama bomb!” So you didn’t hear it from me! Boo and Scout are so getting married. Just look at them.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Gossip Girl!

P.S. Casey is asking people who they think is the best looking celebrity.

Hunger Games Movie Review #2

By Marian Cruz

Last Friday, the Paraclete went to go see The Hunger Games with the 16 students that were chosen to go. Watching was incredibly exciting and everybody’s anticipation was growing. In my opinion, I believe the movie was great and showed a lot of feelings that I myself would feel if I had to fight to the death with only one person surviving. One thing that I would do to make it better is to add more mystery between the characters and more foreshadowing.

Marian asked some Paraclete students who also went to the film for their opinions:

Stanley Aneke: The Hunger Games had a lot of action and it was really sad but very entertaining.

Casey Mulligan: It was awesome. I think the book was better though.

Crystal Aneke: It was sad and made me cry. It showed a lot of emotion and I just felt as if I was in the movie. It was great.

Paraclete Cited in Boston Globe Editorial

The Paraclete Academy is featured in a recent editorial by Lawrence Harmon in the Boston Globe about “what it takes to close the achievement gap between low-income urban students and their suburban counterparts.”

Harmon believes successful turnaround efforts “often require adding two, three, or even more hours of academic and enrichment programs to the school day.”  His solution is not to extend the hours teachers are in school but to hand off the next shift to young dedicated college graduates.  He  cites two such programs that do just that: Citizen Schools and the Paraclete Academy.

 This is what Harmon  has to  say about the Paraclete Academy:

“Some high-quality after-school programs operate without any taxpayer funding. The Paraclete Academy in South Boston is a calling for its co-founder, Sister Ann Fox. It’s also a godsend for low-income, elementary, and middle-school students who arrive at the former St. Augustine convent on E Street shortly after school and stay as late as 8 p.m. Paraclete takes considerable care to balance the ethnic and economic mix of its roughly 50 students.

Continue Reading

The Paraclete Library Dedicated to Boston’s First Lady

We were delighted to welcome Mrs. Angela Menino,First Lady of Boston, to the Paraclete October 6 and surprise her with the announcement that we were dedicating our library in her honor. South Bostons Paraclete Academy honors Angela Menino  (via South Boston’s Paraclete Academy honors Angela Menino She thought she was coming to read to a group of our student¸which of course she did. Later, Mrs. Menino confided that she loves reading to children; it was obvious that our children loved being read to by her. Another planned “coincidence” was the presence of many of our board and event committee members who were having a meeting about our November 9 Reception and were able to take part in the festivities. Check out our facebook for pictures.

Learning from Rwanda

There is a nice article by Bella English in the Boston Globe about our friend Sister Augusta, a member of the Benebikira Congregation of Rwanda. Sister was interviewed while in Boston attending summer classes at Babson College. She explains why she wants to start a bakery, and why her congregation has created for-profit businesses. An equally interesting response to the article appears in a social impact blog on the website of FSG, This is the well known consulting firm founded by Michael Porter, and is in the fore front of promoting socially responsible business practices, what is often referred to as “creating shared values.” Both articles are worth the read.
We were glad to welcome Sister Augusta back for the summer. She stayed with us when she first came to Boston to learn English and obtain her associate degree in business on a full scholarship from Bay State College. Sister came to study in America because she wanted to learn from us and what a nice turn of events to read that American economists discovered that there was something they could learn from her and her Rwandan sisters.

Profound Decisions at a Young Age

As adults we tend to think that we are the only ones capable of making profound decisions. In reality, decisions are being made by children as young as ten, eleven and twelve that profoundly influence their adult lives. Let me introduce you to Louis and Darwin.

When he came to the Paraclete in the fifth grade, Louis prided himself on being street-wise. He soon befriended a group of less sophisticated boys who lived on the same block in their housing development – but never knew each other because they went to different schools. Everything was going smoothly until Louis began not showing up at the Academy. His mother was worried that she was losing him to the streets. He was hanging out with a group of older boys who thought basketball much more important than school work.

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Why Begin with the 4th Grade?

Research indicates the fourth grade is a critical transitional time for reading and social development. Our experience at the Paraclete Academy mirrors this finding. Beginning later this fall, we will expand our existing core instruction of fifth and sixth grade classes to include this crucial grade.

During the first three years of school, children learn the mechanics of reading with vocabulary words that focus on the familiar – the terminology of family and home. Almost every child feels comfortable with the words they read. Beginning in the fourth grade, reading moves into the wider world and with this transition comes less familiar vocabulary. At this age, children themselves are moving into the world and becoming increasingly influenced by what their peers think over the thoughts and opinions of the adults in their lives. The creation of a positive learning community that provides peer support for working hard in school is an important part of our program.

Continue Reading

Two Questions

There are two questions that often come up when talking about the Paraclete Foundation:  What does the word “paraclete” mean and how did you end up in Rwanda?   The two are actually related.

The  answer to the first question is that the word paraclete comes from the Greek word, paracletos, which means literally “to be called along side of one in need.” In Christian scriptures it was used by John as a name for the Holy Spirit.

As to the second question, our involvement in Rwanda begain in  2000, when we invited delegates from an international Harvard colloquiem, Women Waging Peace, to dine with us at the Paraclete. A respected woman leader from Rwanda saw what we were doing in education and asked for our help with education in her country. So, true to our name, we ended up in Rwanda because we were “called along side of one in need”  


Sr. Juvenal returned to Rwanda

Sr. Juvenal has returned to Rwanda and is head of school at Maranyundo, replacing Sr. Felicite who was responsible for its start-up and saw her first class take national exams and rank number 1 in the country for girls’ schools and number 3 nationally.  Sr. Felicite is now at St. Joseph’s in Nanza where she will be expanding this private primary school to include a middle school.

Sr. Augusta in Boston

Sr Augusta, the Econome Generale of the Benebikira congregation will be returning to Boston in May at the invitation of Babson College to attend summer business classes.  She will be accompanied by Sr. Consolata who will be here for six months to learn English.

Marian and Lybia

One of our stellar 5th graders chose to challenge herself by reporting on the situation in Libya! Her effort and research is clearly evident in this article, which succinctly describes the early situation.

The Battle for Libya

A few weeks ago the U.S and other countries including France and the United Kingdom, began military attacks against the government of Libya. They are trying to stop the Libyan Leader, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, from attacking his own people. Thousands of protesters took the streets of Libya in protests similar to those in Egypt, more than a month ago. The protesters demanded that Qaddafi step down.

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Article by Selena

Our fifth and sixth grade English classes have been working on newspaper articles, and this was written by Perkins 5th grader Selena Figueroa. She is now an expert on Selena Perez. Enjoy!

Selena Quintanilla Perez

Selena was born April 13, 1971 in Lake Jackson, Texas. Selena was an amazing dancer and singer; she had a lot of talent. Selena was a Mexican Latin-American singer and she was really famous.

Selena started singing when she was six. When she was nine she was in a family band called “los Dinos”, that means “the dinosaurs”. In the was her father , Abraham Quintanilla, her mother, Marcela Quintanilla, her sister, Suzzette Quintanilla, and her brother Abraham Quintanilla junior the third. Selena attended O.M Roberts Elementary school in Lake Jackson. At age eleven she had became a star.
Selena ran away at age 21 and got married to Chris Perez. She ran away to get married to Chris Perez because her father didn’t want her marrying him. Selena got married in Corpus Christi.

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Silly Willy

A poem by Joshua Curtiss, Perkins 5th grader

Silly Willy
Silly Willy is so skilly,
He’s so skilly that he gets me chilly,
Willy’s chellow is so mellow it’s
so mellow that it might turn yellow,
sore, core, trees galore DJ’s dance
on the dance floor
Jack, Nack, No Tic-Tac, just don’t
don’t squat you’ll break your back,
Look, Brooke on a log, on a log
like a frog, on the log like a frong
in the frog, Silly Willy is not silly
just his name is very nifty.