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Kigutu International Academy


Mission and Vision

The Kigutu International Academy (KIA) will produce a new generation of leaders by providing a transformational secondary school education to high potential youth from across Burundi and beyond its borders.  Using an innovative curriculum and world-class instruction, KIA students will develop vital 21st century skills such as critical thinking, entrepreneurship and teamwork.  KIA graduates will be prepared to thrive in higher education and reach their full potential.  We envision building a network of job-creators, problem-solvers and change-makers for Africa.

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The Kigutu International Academy (KIA) is a boarding school for grades 9-12, located in the lush mountains above Lake Tanganyika on the expansive campus of Village Health Works (VHW). The Academy will open its doors in September 2020 to a diverse group of young boys and girls from across Burundi with strong academic credentials and a demonstrated commitment to improving their community.  VHW will provide an unparalleled location for KIA with its beautiful setting, excellent infrastructure and experienced leadership team.

Curriculum and Instruction

Leveraging Global Best Practice in Instruction:

  • Active teaching methodologies that put students at the center of the learning experience.

  • Technology tools to individualize learning, meeting students where they are.

  • Experiential learning that uses  VHW as the classroom with a hands-on and interdisciplinary approach to learning.

Building Critical 21st Century Skills: 

  • Effective communication, teamwork, problem-solving, use of data and more. 

  • Entrepreneurship, emphasizing the life sciences and agriculture.

  • Student-run enterprises that serve the local community. 

  • Responsible citizenship and ethical leadership, with a focus on social justice and African studies.

  • English as the primary language of instruction with proficiency in French and Swahili.

Ensuring Competency in Core Subject Areas:

  • Small classes taught by experienced educators to  ensure solid grounding in traditional subjects.

  • Curriculum aligned with Burundian national standards.  

  • Comprehensive preparation for students to take the national exam at the end of grade 12. 


Teaching Team

The faculty and staff of KIA will be comprised of both international and Burundian educators. The diverse and experienced teaching team will embrace a rigorous but nurturing and student-centered approach to pedagogy. The team will also include young, English-speaking Teaching Fellows, who will serve as mentors in dorms, assistants in classrooms and coaches on playing fields.

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Recruitment and Admissions

KIA will recruit promising youth from across Burundi and will prioritize assembling a student body that is diverse across gender, socio-economic and geographic lines. 

Candidates will need to demonstrate both community-based leadership and strong academic performance. The admissions process will include an initial application with essays and recommendations. Final stages of the admissions process will involve interviews and interactive exercises.

KIA will provide scholarships to disadvantaged students, yet also expects to be an attractive option to fee-paying families. Each class will include young people from Kigutu.


Campus Life

KIA will be a safe and vibrant community. Dorms will provide a comfortable environment with live-in faculty members. VHW’s clinic and hospital will provide outstanding wellness services.  Student activities will be central to the KIA experience, with student-led clubs, sports teams and the opportunities to engage in the arts. All KIA community members will also perform campus jobs, including working on the school farm, which will provide much of the food for the school.  As they progress through KIA, all students will have opportunities to serve in leadership and service roles.

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Pathways Beyond KIA

Students will receive university guidance from experienced university counselors. Graduates of KIA will matriculate to top colleges in North America as well as to leading universities in Burundi and across Africa.  KIA will prepare students for TOEFL, SAT and other exams. After completing higher education, KIA grads will remain connected as an active alumni network. KIA alums will both give and receive mentoring as they launch their careers and move into leadership roles in Burundi.


Scaling our Impact Through the Teacher Leadership Institute

KIA will be a beacon for schools across Burundi. Once established, KIA will launch the Teacher Leadership Institute (TLI) to share its approaches with other educators and strengthen the overall education system in Burundi.

The TLI will provide innovative professional development for educators using both KIA and the local Kigutu primary school as demonstration schools.  By combining teacher education with hands-on experience, teachers will be able to learn new practices and then try them in real classrooms. 

A wide array of programs are possible for educators across the region, from systems leaders learning to integrate health care into primary schools to secondary school teachers practicing student-centered teaching. 

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The Operating Environment in Burundi

Burundi’s education system faces numerous and critical challenges. Despite progress in access to primary school, Burundi continues to have some of the lowest education outcomes in the world.  Secondary school transition and graduation rates are low, with upper secondary completion rates as low as 5%. Government expenditures are extremely low with only $98 spent per primary student and $237 spent per secondary student.  Teachers in Burundi receive limited initial training and virtually no in-service professional development. Most teachers rely on traditional, rote teaching techniques and have limited subject matter expertise. 


Building on A Track Record of Success in Education

Since 2011 VHW has been working to improve education for young people in Kigutu. Through a partnership with the local government school, we have dramatically improved teaching, learning and health outcomes for over 700 children through a range of interventions that include:

  • Improving teaching through ongoing teacher training and the provision of classroom materials 

  • Improving learning through a preschool program, after-school program  and weekend classes

  • Integrating health care through a feeding program, health screenings and de-worming 

  • Enhancing infrastructure by constructing a pre-school, primary school, kitchen and library

Through these efforts, malnutrition rates have plummeted and enrollment and attendance rates have soared.  Learning outcomes have dramatically improved with the passing rate on the 9th grade exam rising from zero to 90% in just a few years. 

Evaluation data shows strong community support for the school and 100% of teachers implementing strategies learned in training sessions. VHW is now expanding teacher training to schools across the catchment area. The Kigutu International Academy and the Teacher Leadership Institute will draw upon and leverage VHW’s experience in improving learning and health outcomes in Kigutu and will continue to partner closely with the local school.

Progress to Date

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Building the Knowledge Commons

Working with MMA, a leading South African architecture firm, we have developed architectural plans for the KIA’s initial academic space, the Knowledge Commons.  The Knowledge Commons reflects the innovative spirit of KIA with flexible spaces for students to learn, work and gather. The Knowledge Commons will include science and STEM labs, classrooms, meeting spaces, an amphitheater for community meetings and open-air courtyards.   VHW also has comfortable residential housing for available for students. Over the longer term, KIA will build its permanent campus on 5 hectares of land provided to VHW by the government.

The Leadership

Liz Berry Gips, Executive Director
Liz has over two decades of experience in the education sector and has served in leadership roles for a variety for organizations, including the African Leadership University, the Mastercard Foundation and USAID. At USAID, Liz served as the founding Coordinator for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), President Obama’s legacy initiative to develop young leaders across Africa; she also served as a Senior Education Advisor to USAID in South Africa. Prior, Liz was the Executive Director of Global Education Fund, where she led the establishment of grass-roots programs in Kenya. Liz currently serves as a Trustee of the African Leadership Academy and on advisory councils for Girl Rising-Global Education Fund, Teach for All and the President’s Council on International Activities at Yale University. Liz received a BA from Williams College and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.

Clare Korir, Chief Operating Officer, KIA.
Clare is a passionate student of transformative education. She started her journey through Columbia University’s Community Impact Programs, where she taught at the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem and headed the African Students Association, for which she was awarded the Student Leadership Award. Clare has extensive experience as a leadership educator, having previously worked at African Leadership Academy, African Leadership University, and led the founding of M-Pesa Foundation Academy. Clare obtained a BA in Economics from Barnard College of Columbia University, and is currently completing an MBA from Strathmore University.


The Team: Advisory Board, Youth Advisory Board, and Partners


Advisory Board

Bill Bullard, Former Academic Dean, Collegiate School

Meg Campbell, Founder, Chief of Strategy & Innovation, Codman Academy Charter Public School

Daniel Casanova, Executive Director, Global Partners

Chinezi Chijioke, Co-Founder & CEO, Nova Pioneer

Hatim Eltayib, Dean,  African Leadership Academy

Jake Galloway,  Faculty Member, African Leadership Academy

Sharon Jacob, Board Member, Village Health Works

Bruce McNamer, President and CEO, Greater Washington Community Foundation

Leonce Ndikumana, Director, African Development Policy Program and Professor of Economics, UMASS

Deogratias Niyizonkiza, Founder and CEO, Village Health Works

Tiffany Cheng Nyaggah, Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund

Khumo Shongwe, Senior Advisor, Royal Bafokeng Holdings

Fred Swaniker, Founder and CEO, African Leadership Group


Burundian Youth Advisory Board

Don de Dieu Iradukunda, Michigan State University

Regis Isirahenda, Notre Dame University

Ladouce Ndikumwenayo, Whitman College

Kevin Lionel Ndizaniye Mpundu, Bennington College


Our Current Partners

African Leadership University


Global Partners for Development

Global Schools Forum

The Jacob Family

Mastercard Foundation