The Rift Valley Academy is not a prep school, if what you have in mind is stone hallways, plaid uniforms, and privileged youth. RVA was primarily founded as an institution for the education of the children of missionaries in Africa, but it has become much more. In the beginning, the aim was to provide the children an education to prepare them for their future return to North America while their parents would continue their missionary work in Africa.
Preparing for a Future in the West
RVA still is a university preparatory school in some sense. The school’s philosophy statement reads, “The secondary educational program is designed to enable students to meet the entrance requirements of most North American schools of higher learning.” Frankly speaking, missionary children are not likely to be prepared for the rigor or culture of North American university life without an intentional program. The other educational options for missionary children are attending national schools and homeschooling [through 12th grade]. National schools might prepare the student well for entrance into an African university, but it may not prepare them for the particular tests needed to gain entrance into a western university. And homeschooling on the mission field, while under the best circumstances might provide a solid academic foundation, may not give the student the type of extracurricular and social involvement that would help him or her feel at home in a North American or western university setting. RVA attempts to prepare students academically, but also socially and spiritually for their future in North America.
And the Rest?
But even if some of the students haven’t come from the West, or don’t return there, the philosophy statement continues, “courses are designed with outcomes intended to provide for the development of practical skills, personal enrichment and individual growth so that students may become productive citizens wherever they may live.” Twenty-two different countries are represented in the student body at RVA. While a majority of those are western countries, a substantial number of students come from Africa and Asia. ESL courses are offered, and “an increasing number of courses and units are being provided to assist students from non-North American countries to meet their educational and cultural needs, including a British I.G.C.S.E. program.”
Christian Education in the African Context
RVA’s vision statement reads “Rift Valley Academy seeks, within the African context, to disciple, nurture, and educate students toward Christian maturity for the glory of God.” RVA is, of course, in Africa. Before the school was established over 100 years ago, many missionaries with children chose to leave their children in their home country to be educated. For many other missionaries, that was unthinkable. RVA was founded to provide a solid education and keep children close to, if not necessarily always at, their parents’ place of service. And because RVA is a Christian school, much more than an academic foundation is intended. The school seeks to produce and equip Christian disciples.
Academics Through the Eyes of Faith
A distinctly Christian education is one that sees every course of study through the eyes of faith. I attended Wheaton College in Illinois which is a Christian liberal arts college. During our freshman year, we took introductory courses in a range of disciplines, and I remember reading books like Music Through the Eyes of Faith and Biology Through the Eyes of Faith. The idea was that since “all truth is God’s truth,” we ought to discover how all that we are learning points back to the Creator. That is Wheaton’s goal at the college level, and that is RVA’s aim at the elementary and secondary levels. I look forward to teaching in a classroom where I can explain very explicitly how God is at work around us through what we are learning in the classroom.
Prepping for the Kingdom
So in a very real sense, RVA is a prep school. It is preparing students for the Kingdom. They are learning how to participate in the Lord’s Prayer to see that “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Prepping for the Kingdom does not mean hunkering down in a shipping container buried in your backyard waiting for Jesus’ return. Students aren’t just being taught about Christ in the classroom. They are being shown how to follow Christ. It is an amazing statistic that at certain points in RVA’s history, up to 25% of the graduating class have gone on to be missionaries themselves. But the school is more than a greenhouse for future missionaries, as praiseworthy as that is. We want to help develop mature students who are equipped to follow Christ into whatever life or occupation he calls them.