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She had the will: All Thacienne needed was the way

Meet Thacienne from Kigali, Rwanda

In the rolling hills of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, Thacienne knew she would excel as a college student—if only her family could afford it. 

“As the first born of the family, my parents were worried about my education,” she says. Her parents asked her if she could wait two years before starting college; the family needed time to raise the funds to cover her tuition, which in Rwanda can cost several times the average annual wage. The cost of higher education can be prohibitive for many Rwandans, unless they are able to receive government or private support. 

For girls, the barriers are even greater. Girls take on more responsibilities for household duties, which means they are less likely to pursue higher education. If they do want to, girls entrance examinations are less competitive with boys because of the reduced time they had available to study at home during their schooling. Even if their parents can scrape together university tuition, attending college isn’t an option for most young women. 

But Thacienne was determined to find a way. 

A $3900 loan from Kiva, powered by 92 generous lenders, funded her tuition to U.S.-accredited Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Thacienne attended classes virtually via the laptop paid for by the loan, participating in class discussions and keeping up with assignments. In spite of COVID’s many disruptions, the aspiring entrepreneur graduated last year with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Marketing.

“Since I knew everything was covered, I studied courageously.”

“I’m very grateful," says the 24 year-old.

To support another student like Thacienne, contribute to an education loan here

How Thacienne’s loan helped her community

To make Thacienne’s loan possible, Kiva partnered with Kepler, a Rwanda-based non-profit organization that matches marginalized African youth with educational opportunities. Kepler’s fundraising through Kiva helped Thacienne with the tuition and tools she needed to complete her degree, as well as a small amount of money to help with incidental needs. This monthly stipend included in the loan was essential to her education, as it allowed her to attend classes and complete assignments without any worries about how to pay for her modest personal expenses. 

But the resourceful Thacienne made that stipend stretch even further: during her studies she was able to start a small poultry business that employed two other women in her neighborhood, creating opportunities for others in her community. 

Like Kiva and its Field Partners, Kepler is driven by a mission to improve people’s lives through access to affordable credit. Kepler recruits and vets high-performing students from some of the country’s poorest areas, providing instruction, materials, and post-graduate job placement. Through its innovative partnership with SNHU, students are able to log into lectures and follow curriculums using laptops and wireless networks—these dedicated scholars have been comfortable with long-distance internet learning long before COVID-19 forced the rest of the world online.

Thacienne studied courageously with the use of her Kiva education loan

Enabling more than just one education

The impact of the loan has been manifold to Thacienne’s family as well. Because of her ability to support herself with the stipend, her parents were able to direct more resources to the rest of her siblings, creating a cycle of education and economic resilience.

"From the day they knew that someone would cover my education fees, they were no longer worried about that," Thacienne says. "They used the money that was meant to be supporting me to support my siblings."

Thacienne's younger brother Badem recognizes how a single loan can reverberate throughout a community.

“Our life has changed in many ways. Us little siblings also now get a chance to study. And when she created her business, she helped those people and their families a lot.”

Thacienne’s indomitable spirit didn’t dim during COVID-19, when the pandemic disrupted the already-fragile economic state of her community. Many people lost their jobs, and other students had to drop out of school because their livelihoods dried up. But Thacienne’s loan continued to contribute its stipend, allowing her to continue her studies and run her business during that harrowing time. 

“The support she received helped Thacienne during COVID especially, because she wasn’t distracted,” says a community advisor who checked in with her regularly throughout the periods of quarantine. “She was still able to be stable and successful.”

Thacienne’s brother Badem also commends the focus and perseverance that his older sister models for him and his younger siblings. “Thacienne is a really hard worker. She never gives up. When she gets down, she just stands up again and continues her path.”

Just the beginning

Earning her college degree is just the beginning of the path for Thacienne. As Rwanda and the rest of the world recover from the economic effects of COVID, she plans to expand her agribusiness to create more jobs in her community and empower others. 

Always determined to find a way, she is already at work to earn her Master’s degree in communications and marketing: “I want to get enough skills to help me to achieve my goals.”

Want to help someone like Thacienne receive the credit they need to achieve their dreams? Kiva's education loans make it possible for borrowers to attend universities, vocational schools, and other forms of higher education. Fund an education loan here.

About the author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos is Kiva's Senior Storyteller and an award-winning writer based in Savannah, Georgia, USA. Covering social justice, cultural equity, sustainable growth, financial literacy, and always celebrating others' success, she is thrilled to help share Kiva's mission—and the stories of the people it connects.