On July 18, a team of officials from different local administrative units and those from the Ministry of Infrastructure toured the 2.051km road built by 23-year-old Emmanuel Niringiyimana, connecting the villages of Gashari and Murambi in Karongi District, Western Province.
In 2016, the then young student dropped out of school and took an initiative to build a much-needed road to help people access medical services at Kirinda Hospital or Mwendo Health Centre.
“I decided to drop out of school to finish what I started after I realised that it was difficult for people to not only access medical services but also improve business in the area,” Niringiyimana told Sunday Times.
Niringiyimana is the first born in a family of four children, born to a visually impaired father and a mother who has had health complications for a long time.
Niringiyimana and Karongi Vice Mayor Espérance Bagwire (centre) with other officials inspecting the road he built single with his own hands. / Courtesy
His family lives in Gisovu Village, Nkoto Cell, Murambi Sector, Karongi District and mainly depends on Ingoboka support given to vulnerable households.
Since he started the initiative three years ago, Niringiyimana, has single handedly built a 2.051 road, including a 775m newly-built in Murambi and 1.276km rehabilitated in Gashari.
Niringiyimana decided to drop out of school after realizing that people in his neighborhood would walk miles to look for medical services at either Kirinda Hospital or at Mwendo Health Center either way.
The idea to build a road for his community first came up in 2016 when he was working in a garden he saw people virtually struggling to take patients past Murondwe River to Kirinda Hospital because there was no road.
Niringiyimana said he works on the road twice a day, from 7a.m-11a.m, and then from 3p.m-6p.m.
“It is my job. Sometimes I take an hour to help my parents in some activities but my focus has always been on the road”
Given the efforts and time he spent building the road, people in the neighborhood have since named the road ‘Magwidi road’ which is Niringiyimana’s nickname.
The local administration helped in explaining to area residents whose land the road passes through about the collective gains that the community would benefit from the land.
“No one stopped me from tracing the road through their land because they realised that I was doing the initiative for public interest,” he said.
Officials from the district and Infrastructure Ministry talk to area residents after touring the road. / Courtesy
When the river is full during the rainy season, it becomes very difficult for people to go to the health center to access medical services.
However, he says, some grassroots leaders in the village did not follow up on his initiative and support him through the monthly community service ‘Umuganda’ until he went to the district headquarters to seek for support.
“I did not get any help from the local administration, except some people who would lend me a hoe and spade. I would even bring green grass for a neighbor’s cow in exchange of the pick he lent me to carry out my activity,” he said.
He said he did not do all that expecting a reward but to remove a barrier and ensure that people have sustainable infrastructure that can help them access services from one place to another.
He was honoured for his patriotic gesture after being told that he will be helped to go back to school.
“I just wanted to show my part in contributing to the country’s development by doing activities that can benefit the community in one way or another,” he said.
“It makes me proud to see that my work has been recognised and this should be a lesson to the young generation to contribute to the country’s development. I would like to meet the President and thank him for always inspiring us,” he added.
During the tour, a group of technocrats, particularly engineers from Rwanda Transport Development Agency were also at the site to assess the situation and determine how the government can help Niringiyimana realize his dream of bringing a good road to his community.
Now that further activities on the road construction were put in the engineers’ hands to improve it, Niringiyimana has now set his sights to returning to school to develop his passion into a professional career.
He is passionate about innovation and recently connected his family’s house with off-grid electricity.
“My dream is to continue my studies and become an engineer, especially in electronics or civil engineering. I am happy that the local administration promised to support me to study,” he said.
Moreover, his parents were promised a cow, through Girinka programme and have the family’s house renovated as a reward for their son’s heroics.
Emmanuel Nzabahayo, his father, also praised his son’s relentless efforts in serving his country by building the road in his neighborhood.
Speaking to Sunday Times, Espérance Bagwire, the Vice Mayor of Finance and Economic Planning for Karongi District hailed the youngster’s patriotic spirit and confirmed that the District will help him in his studies.
“We were aware of his initiative which created a shortcut for the community to access a nearby health center. He did a great job in connecting people from both Gashari and Murambi sectors to carry out business smoothly,” she said.
A study will be carried out before mobilising funds to build a bridge connecting Gashari and Murambi.