When she dropped out of school in P.5, Henriette Uwineza felt as if the earth had crumbled under her feet, burying her future in the rubble.
Today, the 23-year-old born of Murambi Sector in Karongi District, is a staunch believer of the old adage; ‘Behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining.’
“I was unfortunate that my father was a person who never took good care of his family because he preferred spending in bars than pay school fees. I can never forget this even though I was supported by well-wishers,” she said.
Uwineza says that while she never got far in formal education, she nonetheless considers herself lucky to have got sponsorship from Young People for Africa-Rwanda chapter.
The organisation supports vulnerable children in Karongi, especially school dropouts, to acquire life skills. Uwineza is one of the over 500 beneficiaries so far.
“I was selected and trained for one year in tailoring, something that has changed my life for the better. This was the starting point of a new chapter in my life and each other day, I advance by building on the skills I acquired,” she said.
When she completed her training in 2008, Uwineza saved Rwf 25,000 to enable her to acquire a sewing machine from the organisation. This is in line with Young People Africa’s conditions aimed at giving start-up capital to the trainees so as to empower them get to the job market fresh from the training.
Uwineza operates from Mulindi village in Rusororo Sector, Gasabo District.
Now a mother, she says that in addition to tailoring, she has diversified her work and now includes selling Bitenge fabrics and a retail shop—a development that has not only attracted more customers but has increased her earnings.
“When ladies come for my services, they are attracted by the quality of my clothes; and they buy and give me to make for them good designs,” she said. In a good month, she can earn about Rwf 250,000. Unlike, her father, Uwineza is passionate about educating her children.
“It is very dangerous for parents not to educate their children,” she said urging parents to be responsible.
Aline Mukamana another beneficiary who has so far been trained for six month at Association Couture de Kirinda, says that the initiative gives her and many others hope in life. Like any other person who never expected free skills, Mukamana sounds hopeful.
“As soon as I finish training, I will go to Kigali because I believe that is where I will be able to work because there is ready market,” she said.
Fighting dropout rate
In a bid to ensure no child drops out of school, Young People for Africa-Rwanda has, come up with a sponsorship program for children who are vulnerable, but are still in school.
At Groupe Scolaire Kilindi and Institut Presterie de Kilinda, are the two pilot schools where the organisation sponsors about 50 children annually.
Bernard Rutoto, the headmaster Groupe Scolaire Kilindi said that the number of students dropping out of school has reduced significantly.
“I cannot give figures now, but reports from my teachers indicate that the number of students in their respective classes has remained constant unlike before or in 2003,” he said.
Dagmar Keller, the founder Young People for Africa, said that his organisation will continue supporting vulnerable children. “We need to intensify supporting vulnerable families and children; and with this approach, we have launched ‘Ihene’ project as a means of giving families goats to fight poverty,” she said.