A Long Way to School tells the fascinating life story of Seconde Nimenya, who grew up in Burundi, Africa in the 1970s.
Nimenya is the author of three other books, including Evolving Through Adversity, her award-winning memoir. A Long Way to School is her young readers edition of that book, rewritten to inspire middle and high school age readers to overcome the challenges in their own lives. Western students will discover not only how good they have it compared to people in the developing countries, but they will discover anything is possible when you are determined to succeed.
Seconde Nimenya’s story is one of relentless determination in the face of challenges and a constant desire to learn and rise above her circumstances, no matter the odds.
From her early life, Nimenya refused to give up. As an infant, she crawled into a fire when her mother left the room for just a minute. Her parents had to carry her to the nearest hospital, an hour away by car, but since they didn’t have a car, they did the trip on foot.
Whether it was dealing with poverty and not being able to afford the mere necessities, fighting to get an education, walking everywhere she went, or dealing with the bullies in school and in life, Nimenya never gave up. Her resilience through much adversity is what made her who she is and informed her mission in life.
A Long Way to School is the story of fulfilling a purpose to become educated despite the difficulties. Nimenya never even touched a book until she was in sixth grade.
I doubt any reader in North America has experienced the hardships Nimenya did in getting to school, but she was determined to succeed, and she did. Eventually, she married and moved to Canada and then to the United States. She went to college, and perhaps most amazing of all, the girl who didn’t even know what a book was as a child, grew up to be a writer. She is now the author of four books and plans to write many more.
A Long Way to School will open the eyes of anyone to the privileges we take for granted in public education in the United States. Nimenya states, “I believe education is the only solution that truly empowers communities and has the potential to end the cycle of poverty and violence.” Her commitment to education, the obstacles she overcame, and what she had been able to accomplish will be eye-opening and inspiring to young readers.
Nimenya’s message is one of hope and encouragement. She believes that with determination, people can always achieve their dreams. No matter how difficult the journey, she tells us to “Always be persistent, like I was, even though it was a long way to school because I knew when I got there, it would be worth it.”
A Long Way to School is a wonderful book for young readers everywhere. It would be a perfect reading assignment for history, social studies, and English classes. In addition to sharing her story, Nimenya shares some leadership insights, the “Ten Leadership Habits for Your Teen Years and Beyond,” for readers to develop. She also provides a set of “Reflection Questions” at the end so readers can apply the concepts and ideas they’ve learned to their own lives, helping them figure out their own purposes and the futures they want to create for themselves.
Seconde Nimenya’s writing style is easy to read, and suitable for young readers from middle school grade level to older readers. The cover suits the book well because it shows a little girl struggling to walk to school, when school was so far away from home-a literal and figurative image of what Nimenya’s life has been. Read what this young girl has endured, and you will understand how you can also make the best out of any situation through perseverance.
I highly recommend A Long Way to School.