RWANDA: Salesian Graduate Finishes Top of Her Class and Plans to Give Back to Salesian School
(MissionNewswire) Rwanda has made remarkable progress since the 1994 genocide in the country, particularly in providing education and health services to the poor, according to UNICEF. However, with high rates of poverty, there is still much to be done. Close to 57 percent of the country’s population of 10 million live below the poverty line and for those under the age of 18, the poverty rate increases to more than 60 percent. UNICEF notes that subsistence farmers, households headed by youth and those without assets and adequate household resources remain the poorest and the most vulnerable to worsening poverty and the effects of natural disasters, food insecurity and economic crises.
With half of Rwanda’s population under the age of 18, lack of educational opportunities is a concern. Half of all children who enroll in primary school don’t finish and go on to face a future of unemployment or employment at low-paying jobs. In addition, almost four percent of children aged five to 14 are working in domestic service or other jobs instead of going to school.
Salesians have been working in Rwanda for many years to provide educational opportunities to poor youth. They operate primary, secondary and vocational schools throughout the country as well as offer recreational activities, English language classes and agricultural programs.
“Students in Rwanda are taking the first steps to rebuild their lives and their country,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Learning skills in the latest technologies, students are able to find jobs in high growth sectors to help them support themselves and their families.”
St. Mary Mazzarello Technical Secondary School, located in the city of Gisenyi in the Western Province of Rwanda, specializes in hotel operations training. Here, students have the opportunity to acquire all the skills necessary to successfully operate a hotel through courses in management, finance and hospitality skills. In addition, students receive support services such as tutoring and training in resume writing and interviewing skills to help them prepare for the workforce. Graduates from the program are fully prepared to find and retain stable employment.
Patience Nyirahabufite, a 2012 graduate of St. Mary Mazzarello Technical Secondary School, ranked number one in the country among all graduates taking the national exam. Hailing from humble origins as an orphan and then becoming the mother of two small children at a young age, Patience encountered the Salesian Sisters in Gisenyi who encouraged her to attend school and assisted her in her studies.
Although Patience’s brother cared for her children so she could pursue her studies, it was of constant concern to her knowing that her children were not gaining a formal education. To meet this need, the Salesian Sisters offered Patience a teaching job at St. Mary Mazzarello for a year, enabling her to pay the fees to send her children to school. Speaking at her graduation, Patience credited the Salesian Sisters with helping to make her dreams come true.
Today, Patience is continuing her studies at the university in Kigali, furthering her education in hotel operations on a government sponsorship. When she completes her studies, she hopes to return to Gisenyi and teach in the secondary school where she received her education. In this way, she hopes to give back by helping other young girls further their education as she was able to.
UNICEF – Poverty in Rwanda
Don Bosco Eastern Africa Salesian Bulletin, 1st Quarter February 2014 – A Gate of Hope in Gisenyi, Rwanda