“Everyone wants to have it; they ask me to go and build it for them.”

Jean Baptise, 17, is talking about a ‘rocket stove’. The new and improved stove is changing lives in Rutana Province, Burundi. But what’s so special about it?  

In Burundi, 90 per cent of people live in rural areas. Many families still cook on open fires, which uses a lot of firewood and causes health risks due to smoke inhalation. Women and girls are often responsible for collecting firewood, which can put them in danger and take time away from their studies.  

Jean Baptise and his classmates wanted to change this. They are part of the Creatable program supported by UNICEF which teaches innovation and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to high school students.  

Local teachers are trained to deliver the program, and students are encouraged to solve real world problems in their lives. One of the solutions was to help every home have a safe and affordable stove. 

Jean Baptiste says the Creatable program has changed his way of thinking. 

“After seeing that a small piece of firewood can cook the food, I was impatient to know how to build an improved stove,” says Jean Baptiste. “I am happy to be part of this project.” 

“If I visit my relatives, I will build them an improved stove. My wish is that this kind of course be accessible to all Burundian students.” 
 
Gislaine collects firewood from a field five kilometres from her home, and right, Seraphine, Jean Baptiste’s mother says the stove has helped her to save money on wood. © UNICEF/Burundi
"My mind is at rest because 
there is no risk of fire.

In the past, Burundi has been marked by decades of conflict and political instability. Although today the country is mostly at peace, about 65 per cent of the population live below the national poverty line and education opportunities are limited for young people.  

Only half of students complete secondary school. Access to quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Burundi is challenging, particularly for girls. 

Thanks to the Creatable program, more young girls like 16-year-old Gislaine can participate in STEM subjects, while also improving their day-to-day lives.  

Gislaine used to collect wood in a field five kilometres from her home in Rutana Province multiple times a week. One bundle of wood would last four days. 

That all changed after she learnt how to build a rocket stove. This is your shortcut of the process: 

  • A base is built from bricks and a slab is placed on top.  
  • A passageway is created for the firewood to go into 
  • The top later of bricks is covered with clay ready for cooking
"I had to go to get firewood four times a week. But now I only go there once a week. Once you use this improved stove, you can't go back,” says Gislaine. 

“In this course, the improved stove allowed us to see the world differently.”  
Jean Baptiste, 17 years old follows the teacher's lessons on theories of rocket stoves and right, Gislaine and Jean Baptiste learn how to build a rocket stove. © UNICEF Burundi

Science and technology teacher Nestor undertook training on the Creatable program and teaches Year 7, 8 and 9 students. Nestor found that students enjoyed the course and were eager to go home and build a rocket stove for their families.  

“Before, it was difficult to solve some problems, with Creatable my mind is open,” he says.  

“The results of the second term are clearly better than those of the first one. This new course has motivated them and allowed them to start doing small development projects.” 

Creatable in Burundi is a comprehensive and inclusive school-based program created in partnership with Australian production company FINCH that teaches innovation and STEM to adolescents.   

Creatable first started in Sydney schools and is now being taught in Burundi to 1,000 students across 10 schools in 10 provinces. 
 
As a new Priority Program for UNICEF Australia, this program is possible because of people like you and generous Australians all over the country.   
Nestor supervises his class in Rutana Province in the south of Burundi. © UNICEF Burundi

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