Thousands of youth in Rwanda graduate annually and they all aim at attaining their dream jobs. For example over 3, 200 graduated from the National University of Rwanda (NUR) in 2012. Rwanda’s education system faces many challenges ranging from school drop-outs and an estimated 40% limited skills in well-qualified graduates. Over the years, more and more graduates find it hard to get their dream job years after graduation. Society Magazine met with a few individuals who lamented about their frustrations with finding employment. Names have been changed at the request of the individuals.
“I graduated three years ago, have done more than 21 job interviews, filled countless online job applications which ended in the recycle/ dust bin and yielded zero results, says James (not real name). The once jolly young man with hopes and dreams worked hard and managed to attain a degree in Political Science at the National University of Rwanda in Butare.
“The hustle I went through till I graduated was traumatising, but what kept me going was the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “Having lost my parents a long time ago, my relatives supported me as they had a lot of hope in me. They made sacrifices to see me through school and when I graduated, we thought the bad days were over.”
A 2009 USAID report ‘Rwanda Youth Employment Assessment’ stated that poverty continues to be a driving concern, and specific measures will be required for any program response. The largest proportion of targeted youth is very poor. Most need to spend part of each day earning money to live and cannot afford to participate in a youth development project without assistance.
“Today my soul is worn out just like the pairs of the handout shoes I wear moving from one office to another. It’s frustrating when you go to a company and find out they are hiring but you have to fill out an online application. You fill out the online application and never hear from them again,” James laments.
“When you call the company to follow up with the application, it yields about the same result with a difference. We are no longer looking, because we already filled the employment spot, they say. Years of searching for jobs takes away all the flesh from your bones and leaves you looking like a lab skeleton. Your clothes start to fade and the shoes start asking you for a break. You develop terraces on your forehead, you lose confidence and eventually you start looking like a criminal and feeling like a second class citizen.”
“Those who still live with their parents are not better off either as they become a burden to the family; imagine fighting for food with your siblings or asking your parents for some money to go to the internet café to check if there is any reply.”
“I know at some point things will get better and I’m not the only one who has been searching for a job since forever, but it’s still frustrating to have everyone on every side think that you’re not trying hard enough to get a job. It is the looks from people who think you haven’t tried hard enough that hurt more than being turned down.”
Last year in October, Kigali Health Institute (KHI) launched a six-month survey that would enable the Institution to determine the employment status of its graduates. Over 3,000 students have graduated at the institute since it began in June 1996; however the question is - where are they now?
Conrad is a young man who lives in Kicukiro. He graduated in 2005 from the University of Butare with a degree in History. While in university, he wanted to take Law as a major, but could not because of lack of space.
He was told to take History as he waited for a space in Law class. Well, he waited and waited and in the end he found himself graduating with a degree in History. Conrad expected to work as a Lawyer or Magistrate when he graduated from university. As a History graduate, he had to rethink his future plans and thought he could work in a museum or as a journalist on Radio and Newspaper. He also thought that he could work in the Ministry of Sports and Culture.
Conrad had the luck to work for Gacaca from 2006 to 2011. He was a coordinator; he educated and trained the people in the Mudugudu to find the truth after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi. He would then write a report and file it for future reference and finally follow up on matters that were not resolved. When Gacaca came to an end, he became unemployed. “I started using all the money I banked,” says Conrad. When he thinks about the future, he says, “I feel insecure about tomorrow.” Every day he wakes up and goes to the cyber cafe near his home and searches the internet on sites like (Igihe, Umurimo, Umuseke) for jobs. He also has a network of people like him who are looking for work and they talk and encourage one another. In the end Conrad says he is prepared to do whatever comes his way. “Let me take the driving job for now so that I don’t have to beg for money.”
Every year, more and more graduates find themselves in situations such as these. For Donatien, the struggle was over even before it began. “As soon as the party streamers littered the ground, the isolation began,” he narrates his story. He graduated with Honours in Bachelor of Law from a Ugandan university. He was convinced that when he finished, job offers would come pouring his way, so he studied hard. “I never got below an upper second class.
I used to read, even when my body screamed out for me to loosen up and relax. I pushed myself; maybe it was my upbringing, or my father’s example. That man works like there is no tomorrow,” he narrates in a glum manner. Towards the end of his second year, his relatives took an interest in his education. “Coming from a literate family, my good grades were astounding and I became the darling of the lot. My uncle kept promising to job hunt with me and that if it failed, I would go work for him. But he was sure I was not going to fail to get a job. I was brilliant and hardworking - I was going places,” he mocks.
It has now been four years for Donatien, and the best he has come up with is working as a daycare attendant at a nursery school in town. Asked why he has never managed to get a job, Donatien blames his woes on his perfect score. “Everywhere I went, they told me I was over qualified. I did a brief stint as a prosecutor at a law firm in town and I was so hated that I feared I would be poisoned. My relatives returned to the dull coloured mosaic that was my background, where they had always been. My uncle adamantly refused to let me work for him. He told me my brother had traumatised him out of working with family members.
All the time he was speaking I did not know whether to scratch his eyes out, or point out that he had conveniently forgotten that my brother is just sixteen and had been doing him a favour by taking him tea at the office when he was still in P6 when his business was still fledgling,” Donatien bitterly reminisces.
“I am not holding any grudges against anyone anymore. I am just saving enough money to start up my own private firm, I am a patient man and I will wait. But when I do stand next to my former boss and other men who chased me from their doorsteps like a dog, I will simply smile and show them how God works in marvelous ways.”
Despite the above challenges, the Ministry of Education believes that innovations in the Rwandan education sector can help to address these challenges.
The Ministry further established an Innovation for Education programs so as to seek innovative ideas that can lead to major change and improvements in the quality of education in Rwanda.
Innovation for Education aims to identify successful ways of improving the quality of education within six thematic areas which include: Accountability and empowerment inclusive education, effective teaching and learning, skills development and use of appropriate technologies in education in order to address the unemployment problem.
Written by Brigitte Mukamutara, Grace Gatera, Martin Bishop and Doreen Umutesi