In 1986 a group of English-speaking parents in Lubumbashi, primarily missionaries but from a wide variety of Christian traditions, began planning an English-medium primary school for Lubumbashi. Since the group included parents from England, Scotland, USA, and New Zealand, the desire was to have a truly international school, with the uniting factor being the English language rather than the educational curriculum of one specific nation. By consensus, the committee requested that the United Methodist Church of Southern Congo sponsor the new initiative and obtain legal authorization from the government through its schools office for TESOL as a private United Methodist school with an international program. Right from the start, many Christian traditions have been represented on the staff--Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox.
Seeking a Site
Seeking a site for what was expected to be a very small school, the committee found a warm welcome at the Lycée Français Blaise Pascal with the support of the French Consulate-General. No existing classrooms were available, but TESOL was invited to build on a corner of the French School site. A two-classroom building was constructed in 1987, the year of the school's opening; three additional classrooms in 1989, an office and a new toilet facility in 1991. Plans were underway for another group of classrooms when military troops looted in September 1991, and the French School closed for 18 years. TESOL enrollment dipped in 1991 and then rose again. In return for watching over all the school buildings for the French government, TESOL was allowed to use Blaise Pascal primary classrooms until a French School would again need them. TESOL enrollment declined again during the war years of 1998-2003 as low as 17, then began steady, rapid growth, passing 160 by September 2012.
A Crisis of Classrooms
Meanwhile, a new French School opened in 2009, with both schools expanding each year. The Établissement Scolaire Français Blaise Pascal reoccupied four classrooms belonging to the French Embassy in 2010 and the remaining six in 2012. A large part of the undeveloped portion of the campus was lost during the decades the French School was closed, and it is no longer possible for TESOL to build additional classrooms on this site as planned in 1991.
A New TESOL Campus
A new TESOL campus is under development on Route Kinsevere in the Joli Site area of Lubumbashi in a rapidly-growing area north of the city. The 22 hectares will provide space for future expansion, seeking to ensure that TESOL will not be forced again to seek a larger site for many years.