The First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, has called on parents, leaders, and all other adult members of every community to do what it takes to ensure that children stay in school.
Mrs Kagame said this while giving a keynote speech at the ceremony of awarding best performing girls in the 2015 national examinations.
The event, which took place in Ngororero District, yesterday, marked the closure of the 2016 series of awarding best performing girls under a campaign led by Imbuto Foundation.
This year marks the 11th year of the promotion of girls’ education, dubbed “Ba Inkubito z’Icyeza n’ishema ry’abakobwa”, and this campaign is among the various events held under the celebration of the 15th anniversary of Imbuto Foundation.
Since its launch in 2005, this campaign has seen over 4,200 Best Performing Girls (BPGs) recognised and rewarded with scholastic materials, essential funds to create savings accounts while those completing senior six have been rewarded with laptops and basic training in IT.
Thirty-six BPGs from the Western Province were rewarded for their academic excellence, in the campaign that is part of the promotion of girls’ education project launched by the Foundation in 2005.
This year’s rewarding campaign saw a total 198 girls from across the nation, awarded for their academic achievement, in the following school cycles; 143 from primary school; 30 girls at senior three level and 25 from senior six.
In her remarks, Mrs Kagame, who is also the Chairperson of Imbuto Foundation, said that it is upon parents, leaders, and educators, that girls are protected from gender-based violence and labour exploitation, such that they can attend school and become future responsible citizens.
“We still have a problem of children dropping out of school to do domestic labour and other forms exploitations.
Again, we need to ask ourselves, what is it that we can improve to ensure that every child goes to school, since we all know the worth of education?” she said.
She said that, the hindrances limiting young girls and boys and prevents them from soaring to greater heights should be dealt with, with urgency so that the country will have capable future leaders, able to continue building on the legacy of their elders.
“Parents, leaders, educators take advantage of available good policies in our country and infrastructure to take children to school, or else we might not have future leaders who will replace us,” she added.
The First Lady also urged young girls and boys to equally be responsible of their lives, and be cautious of relationships that result in early and unplanned pregnancies, or that may cause them to become infected with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
Ngororero is one of the few districts dealing with a ‘big number of school dropouts’, said the Mayor Godfrey Ndayambaje, while painting a picture of his region, which has 99 primary schools, 49 secondary schools and six vocational schools.
“However, with tailored education programmes and the support of non-profit organisations, including Imbuto Foundation, we have had a significant reduction of school dropouts,” he said, referring to the programme ‘Mubyeyi, tera intambwe!’, or ‘Parents, step in!’ initiated by Imbuto Foundation, to help students stay in school.
While sharing her testimony, Caritas Mukandasira, the Governor of the Western Province, urged school officials to be more active in retaining students in schools, and added that unlike her time in school, when “cultural circumstances” were not favourable for girls to thrive in the education sector, currently, there is a clear political will, which works with different partners like Imbuto Foundation, and encourages girls to seek the various opportunities set in place for them, to help them become well-adjusted and accomplished citizens of this world.
Mukandasira’s comments were echoed by UN-Rwanda Resident Coordinator, Lamin Manneh, who challenged Rwandan youth to “take advantage of this environment and good policies to be the best you can be, for the continued transformation of your country.”
According to UN, 31 million girls drop out of school per year in primary schools and 32 million drop out of secondary schools, globally.
Mrs Kagame also lauded the contribution of Imbuto Foundation partners, such as the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), and ONE UN, for being part of this journey of promoting girls’ education, and giving a nation wide platform for these best performing girls to be recognised for their hard work, and create sustainable networks to help one another grow academically, and professionally.
Anne Marie Byukusenge, 20, was among the recipients of a laptop as one of the awards for A ‘level best performing girls. The graduate of vocational and technical school scored 49 aggregates out of maximum 60, and emerged the best female student in her sector.
“The awarding by the First Lady is such a great encouragement to us girls. It inspires us to do more so that we make our parents and the country proud,” Byukusenge said.
The awarding ceremony was attended by several government officials, such as the Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Dr Diane Gashumba; Minister for East African Community Affairs, Valentine Rugwabiza; UNICEF Country Director, Ted Maly, among others.