Rwanda has the reputation of being one of the cleanest countries in the world, and Alain -Claude Nkurunziza, together with his two partners, saw an opportunity and established a school that trains professional cleaners.
Wide Cleaning Academy (WCA) was set up in April this year, and offers hands-on training in professional cleaning, and has released 75 graduates so far.
Nkurunziza talked to Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa to explain the importance of professional training and the formation of Wide Cleaning Academy that provides both practical and theory classes, to facilitate the creation of skilled manpower.
What motivated the idea of a cleaning academy?
We started Wide Cleaning Academy in April this year because there was not one like this before and coming from a hospitality background, we decided to create one. Also, we are seeing more buildings in Kigali and the shape of the city is changing because of the new buildings which require a new type of professional cleaning and maintenance. We were also pressured because we had two institutions that wanted us to train the youth that they were in charge of.
Our first promotion came from two organisations, who wanted to train their youth. They heard about us and they knew that the youth that they had needed some skills.
We also talk with cleaning companies because they will be required to provide trained staff in the future, when they are bidding for tenders. We also have two companies that signed MoU with us and we will be providing training for their staff in the future.
Why is there need for professional training in cleaning services?
At this time where Rwanda is going, we need professional training in everything. One time someone told me that we are the cleanest country in Africa and that’s because we dig deep into our culture but now, we need to use professionalism in the way we clean.
It’s the same thing with hospitality, ten years ago people didn’t think that we needed professional training because people perceived it as low level but that area is now making a lot of revenue for the country. Those buildings will require professional maintenance.
Imagine, most of our students, when they came here, didn’t know which products to use for different surfaces like wood, marble and tiles, carpets. If your cleaner uses any cleaner then it damages property. That is why we don’t need people who not only can clean properly, but also know how to maintain the whole building.
How would you describe the culture of cleaning in Rwanda?
We always want the place to be clean and we are known to be one of the cleanest countries in Africa and we need to maintain that tag. We have hotels, commercial buildings and schools and if we don’t clean them properly, they will get damaged and age quickly. Imagine a hospital that is not clean, patients will get diseases while they are going to be treated.
What has been the impact of this academy?
We have got good feedback from our former clients and students. We recently had entered into an agreement with a company, Six Ways Rwanda Ltd, in charge of cleaning Kigali Heights, the new KBC, and we gave them 20 trained staff.
The students are very happy because we do not only teach them how to clean but also how to act professionally.
Having lived in Switzerland for a long time, and traveled to many African countries why did you choose Rwanda as your destination to venture into cleaning services?
First we wanted to contribute to our home country and also because the country is easily accessible. I have been the chairman of Young Rwandan professionals in Europe for the last six years and it was so easy to talk about Rwanda because many who have been to Rwanda have mentioned how it is easy to start up a business, registering online, and it takes only six hours and many other things and also businesswise, there is a huge need for that.
What are some of the challenges that you have dealt with?
There are many challenges because people still don’t believe that they need training for cleaning. Now, companies that are hiring cleaning companies are realizing that the standards are not met and are forcing cleaning companies to bring cleaners who are trained. So we educate them to better understand that if they have trained staff then they don’t need fifteen staff to do a proper job with the real equipment.
How do you envision this company in the future?
This is just a drop in the ocean because being the first and only training center for professional cleaning today, it is not enough for the country because we need to go to provinces to train the youth.
There are so many youths with no skills and the good thing about training like this is that you get the training in a short time, be employable right after that and teach our students that they no longer need to look for a job but they can offer they services.