Last week, over 1,700 former social misfits; street kids, petty thieves, drug addicts and the like, graduated from Iwawa Rehabilitation Centre with various skills that will help them live a straight life.
When the centre first started operations, it created quite a storm that Rwandan detractors immediately jumped on to further their nefarious agendas. It was given all sorts of names; from being a concentration camp to a brainwashing centre.
Its transit centre in the Gikondo neighbourhood in Kigali was not spared either, but the programme managed to weather the storm.
For many years, Rwanda had a serious issue of loiterers and delinquent youth, whom, because of the lack of social protection programmes, ended in a life of crime and extreme poverty.
The situation was made worse with the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Many young people found themselves on their own; parents had either been killed or fled and they needed to survive. It took some time for the government to deal with that case as its priorities were very many.
Today, Iwawa has helped tens of thousands off the streets and equipped them with needed skills, so it’s everyone’s hope that there is a post-Iwawa system in place to accompany them.
The recent announcement of a kitty of about 220 million to fund Iwawa graduates with their projects should serve just that purpose. Yes, it is true that Rwf 220 will not go very far, but that is just the beginning and hopefully, as years go by, the fund will grow.
What really matters is taking the first step in solving a societal headache.