Nadine Munguakonkwa Bijirwaniragi

Nadine might answer to her Swahili name, Munguakokonkwa, but she also goes by Professor Math. Nicknamed by her classmates for her love of mathematics and prowess when it comes to explaining it to others, she reports, “They like me, by the way, because I always explain mathematics to them whenever there is something they do not understand.”

Her mother, grateful for an easy birth, named Nadine “Munguakokonkwa,” which means “thank you God.” Perhaps her name shaped her outlook on life, because 21 years later, Nadine overflows with gratitude. Growing up in extreme poverty in a corner of Congo where she and her mother would work on other people’s farms for a dollar per day to feed themselves and her younger brothers, often kicked out of school for lack of funds, Nadine ticks off a list of all that she is grateful for. “For instance,” she says, “God helped me graduate from secondary school this year, even though I had never dreamed I might finish school because of poverty and hardship in life.” She is grateful to Action Kivu’s work in Congo for providing the path for her to go back to school.

With the opportunity to attend university, Nadine, aka Professor Math, plans to major in computer sciences and technology. “Computer science is important because it helps people to be aware of what is going on in the world,” Nadine explains, standing on the very ground from which many minerals are extracted that make up critical parts of the world’s technological devices, from smartphones to jet engines. Nadine knows that, and wants to enrich that knowledge with a college degree, so that she can educate others in Congo to know how important their country is to the world.

Many of the things on Nadine’s gratitude list center around school. “My favorite memory is when I was in elementary school and I finished with a 91%. Our headmaster gave me so many gifts! Also I spent three months without have to pay school fees when I was just at the beginning of my elementary school. This is a memory, an experience that I will never forget.”

“My life has not always an easy one,” Nadine shares. “I remember that there were times I needed to stop going to school because we lacked the money for school fees, and during those times I had to spend time farming with my mom. I should have already graduated from secondary school 3 years ago. Now I am 21 years old, I have been delayed, but it’s never too late, I have a goal to achieve.” 

“My life changed by being in school because I know how to write and read, I know the history of my country and other countries, it has changed my behaviors, it has given me value and standing, not only in my family but also in my community. Being in school helps me believe in myself. I just graduated from Secondary school, many boys failed and I succeeded, that is another reason why I strongly believe in myself and I can achieve more and more. I am ready to stand and go again.”

Envisioning her goal of a university degree becoming a reality with the support of partners around the globe, Nadine sees a bright future. “I see myself so far in 10 years,” she says, beaming. “I’ll have my bachelor degree, allowing me to find good work, which will allow me to support vulnerable children, orphans, and widows.”

Nadine wants to pay forward the opportunity she had to attend and graduate secondary school because of Action Kivu’s partner in Congo (ABFEC).  “Going through [this] program has transformed my life entirely, and I want one day to be in a position to give back.

“I want to tell other girls in Congo and around the world that education is the only way to have a bright future. If we have the chance or possibility of studying we must do and take it seriously. And also we must work hard to change the world, and as African girls we can.”

(One year of university plus supplies, books, room & board for Nadine costs $7,000 USD.)