Rwanda : Peter is living his dream in Rwanda

Peter is living his dream in Rwanda

Peter Thorp- an American national, 64 is known for his 10 year leadership at San Francisco’s highly lauded Gateway High School. He arrived in Kigali the capital city of Rwanda two years ago with the aim of achieving what he had always dreamed of.

After all these years working in private and public education,  he thought that the pace of reform in public education was moving too slowly for my interests. I wanted to go someplace where I could have an impact.

He then left his family and Nob Hill apartment two years ago to start a private girls school in Rwanda.

What he finds most challenging in the education system here is, the aim in students at passing one exam. So, understandably. “All the students care about here is mastering information for the national exam,” says peter.

“The combination of being a muzungu (white person), which comes with the assumption that I have skills and good training, and my age in a culture where great respect is given to the elderly established my credentials.

And then I worked very hard to reach out to people in the Ministry of Education and to other government officials.”

 Peter enjoys spending an hour just meters away from a family of mountain gorillas, watching the nobility of this highly endangered animal who is a relative of ours.

He also enjoys hanging at Bourbon Coffee which according to him is the Rwandan version of Starbucks in America.

“The combination of a good cup of coffee, good food and bandwidth is a real attraction.”

He has free time a couple of times a week, he visits some of his favorite restaurants in Kigali, and get a decent meal. He enjoys day trips around the country. It’s a very sunup-to-sundown world, so in the evening, he watches DVDs and read books on his Kindle.

He said, the food here. It’s really hard to be from San Francisco and travel anywhere because you’re always trading down food-wise. I miss the food. I miss the Giants. And, of course, my family.

“There is this openness to learning and appreciation for the opportunity that makes every day here a joyful experience.

I have never seen teenage kids whose personal ambitions are completely intertwined with the nation’s ambitions. These girls are going to be the leaders of this country in a generation,” he said.

Back in America, my family is proud of the work I’m doing, but of course they miss me. My daughter, Amy, has worked in Rwanda with me since April, and I visit home two to three times each year. 

The things he does that surprises people in Africa, is that  most Africans can’t believe that he can run as fast and play as hard as he could when playing soccer.

“They are used to a life expectancy of 47 – so I should be dead at this point. Americans are most surprised that I went to Africa in the first place,” peter says. 

“I’ve become pretty good at startups. I think my next act would be another startup, possibly in Africa or possibly back in the U.S. Given the state of my 401(k), there will be another act.”

“Whatever challenges I might face, at the end of every day, I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to be working in this country with these girls who are the most exciting human capital you can imagine. I feel blessed to be doing this work,” he added.


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