Three schoolchildren from Ngoma District in Eastern Province were found dead while another is receiving treatment after drowning in a marshland around River Akagera.
The bodies of the children, who went missing on Monday evening, were recovered on Tuesday evening.
The deceased are Aphrodis Tuyishimire, 10, Jeovan Mugisha, 8, and Chanceline Umubyeyi, 6. The survivor, Redempta Irabyoroshya, is seven-years-old.
On a fateful day, the children left school after their morning class at 11 a.m and headed home. They were all pupils of GS Rwintashya.
Later on, in the afternoon, they went to collect firewood, a common source of energy, especially for cooking, in rural Rwanda.
They headed to a marshland near River Akagera, an area endowed with a papyrus plant, which the locals largely depend on for their wood energy needs because of the shortage of trees in the region.
That day, the children never returned home, prompting their parents to report the case of missing children to local authorities on Tuesday morning.
The local leaders, residents, parents and the fishermen who ply their trade in River Akagera mounted a search, which lasted for hours.
When they were about to retire, at around 7:30 pm, they heard a child crying near the marshland.
On moving closer, they found out that it was Irabyoroshya who was miserably watching the bodies of her peers floating on water.
Arcade Muragijemungu, the Executive Secretary of Rukumberi Sector, explained that while they were collecting the cattail plants, the children moved to the deep end of the marshland.
“The first child went in and drowned, then his brothers went in to save him. They, too, drowned,” Muragijemungu explained, referring to an account of the surviving child.
According to the Executive Secretary, when Irabyoroshya saw that all her colleagues had drowned “she decided to sit where she was and stayed there.”
When contacted for a comment, Chief Inspector of Police Hamdun Twizeyimana, Police Spokesperson for Eastern region, told The New Times that the surviving child was ready to be discharged from Rukumberi Health Centre, where she was receiving treatment.
While he condemned the act of subjecting children to collecting “firewood”, especially in risky areas, he did not say whether further action would be taken.
“Sending a child at that age to fetch firewood is putting their lives in danger,” he said.
The deceased were laid to rest at Rukumberi Cemetery on Wednesday.