Cyclist looks to raise $45,000 for Tanzania school

Pedaling across the country to raise money for school children in Tanzania, Sergey Rudyak stopped in Minot Aug. 1 for a fundraiser put on by a Minot native who understands the school’s need well.

Katie Jackson assisted with the launch of the Ikirwa School in Tanzania in January. She spoke about the school at the recent fundraiser at Souris River Brewery. People could donate or pledge support, and a percentage of purchases went to the school project during the evening event. As little as $450 a year will fund a child’s instruction, uniform and lunches.

The Ikirwa School is a private English-language immersion school that currently serves children from preschool to first grade. Jackson explained that Tanzania has government-run schools, but it is common for one teacher to have charge of 80 to 100 youngsters, making learning difficult. Most students end their education at ninth grade, which is when English language instruction starts in a typical Tanzania school.

English is the language of commerce and higher education in Tanzania, Jackson said. Conducting any type of banking affairs, for instance, requires being able to speak English, even though the national language is Swahili.

Private schools present a better option if they are accessible, Jackson said. Ikirwa School is the only English-speaking, private school within five miles, she said. Transportation is a challenge in Africa, so the opening of Ikirwa School brought new opportunities for children of that area, Jacksion said.

“It’s a gift,” she said.

Jackson volunteered at the school for six weeks at the invitation of another Minot native, Tara Kramlich, who is a friend of Maria “Masha” Skuratovskaya. An American who had worked with World Bank, Skuratovskaya founded Ikirwa School with Gasper Mbise of Tanzania.

“The children just take school so seriously,” said Jackson, who realized just how seriously when she substitute taught and didn’t have homework for her students at the end of the day.

“They were so upset because they didn’t have homework,” she said. “It was such a big deal to the parents and the children that they even called the teacher that night.”

She said she was forgiven because they felt having the advantage of an English-speaking American teacher that day compensated for the lack of homework.

The incident portrayed the importance of education in Tanzania, though.

“It’s a key to a better life,” Rudyak said.

Rudyak, a friend and former co-worker of Skuratovskaya, has been capitivated by the school project.

“The concept was near and dear to me,” he said. “When I was able to go on this trip, I thought I could use it as a platform to spread the good word about this initiative.”

His interest in biking across the country started when he made a car trip to help Skuratovskaya move from Washington, D.C., to Alaska.

“That’s when I first realized how vast and enormous this country is,” he said. “I felt there’s got to be a better way to see it.”

His bike trip to raise $45,000 began in Hartford, Conn., and will continue to Juneau, Alaska. Due to travel taking more time than originally planned, Rudyak arrived in Minot from Minnesota by Amtrak to be able to make the scheduled fundraiser. He biked on to the West Coast, where a fundraiser is planned in Seattle. He plans to travel by ferry to Alaska.

People also can donate online at ( by selecting Ikirwa School Ride.

The money will help the Ikirwa School expand from the 38 students enrolled earlier this year to serve up to 160 children.

“Every single day, they have new students coming,” Jackson said. The school recently hired a third staff member to assist with administration. In addition to more classrooms for new students, higher level classes will be needed eventually as current students continue on in years to come.

The immediate goal is to build four more classrooms and add a dormitory, Jackson said. The school also is looking at a fee schedule for families who are able to pay, which would help sustain the operation.