To many people Jennifer Batamuliza Kyakwita is just a teacher but to young people, she is a counselor, a mother and a mentor. At 60, Batamuliza continues to be instrumental in various school activities such as debates. Her reason is simple; the best way to give young people proper education is to get them involved in everything.
“When I realised that most students shun extra-curricular activities, I took on this role. It is through such that they gain the necessary skills to excel in all aspects of life,” she explains.
In November, Batamuliza will lead a group of students to participate in a debating competition in Zimbabwe where they expect to win many awards.
A teacher and entrepreneur
Rather than fold hands and complain about petty salaries, Batamuliza puts serving in her profession first. Even when she lost her husband 20 years ago, looking back at her self with pity was something that never crossed her mind. Along the journey, she realized that investing her little savings from salary into profitable businesses could make a difference.
Although most projects matured towards her retirement, she never regrets making such decisions despite the challenges.
Batamuriza is a farmer engaged in poultry and mushroom growing. From 200 birds, her poultry farm has grown to over 1000 birds.
“I sell each bird at Rwf 8,000 and part of the money I get goes to buying chicken feeds and treatment but all the same, I still save some in the bank,” she adds.
The training Batamuliza received in mushroom growing from a farm in Kigali has made her a reference point in her village. She now uses her skills to support fellow women some much young to venture into similar business.
While still fresh from the farm customers pay for these mushrooms handsomely.
“One kilogramme goes for Rwf 2,000, and the good thing about them is that they mature after every two weeks,” she says.
On top of these two projects, Batamuliza acquired 2 hectares of land in Nyamata Bugesera District where she has put a banana plantation. Also her three rentals in Gisozi provide monthly income to support her children.
Who is Batamuliza?
Born in Eastern Uganda, Batamuliza completed her education at National Institute of social work and community development (NTTC) Uganda. Her teaching career begun in 1979 but her dream of mentoring young people emerged after crossing to Rwanda in 1998 to take up a job as a part time English teacher at the University of Rwanda. During the same period she served at the Ministries of Justice and Gender.
Because of her commendable work among other requirements, Batamuliza was in 2006 accorded Rwandan citizenship.
“I had really desired it for long and after getting it, I had a duty to make a difference in the field of education. I became a permanent teacher and did everything whole-heartedly. May be it is the reason people started appreciating my efforts and later the government of Rwanda decided to employ me fully as a lecturer at UR,” she explains.
While serving as a co-coordinator of Imbuto Foundation at university of Rwanda, College of Science and Technology, Batamuliza took up the role of inspiring and empowering the university youths through debating clubs.
In 2013, she established the first debate club at the University of Rwanda.
“Students of UR came up with a debate club, a thing that never existed before. I took this opportunity to make it real by becoming their patron,” she says.
According to Batamuliza, those who joined became open minded and gained courage and confidence inside and outside the classroom.
In 2014, she won an award from the Ministry of Gender as a trainer at Itorero and the Ministry of Education also awarded her..
The same year, the Aspire debate Rwanda now a tool used by government to help the youths excel in co-curriculum activities was formed.
Through this club Batamuliza trained many students to form their own clubs at school.
“It encouraged sharing ideas and knowledge across different Universities in Rwanda and grew rapidly. Many youths realized their dreams through Aspire Rwanda. Moreover, the debates improved their academic work as well,” elaborates Batamuliza.
Although the club started with only three members, the number grew to more than 400 people.
In December last year, Batamuliza and her team travelled to Ghana to participate in a debate and some students came back with awards as best debaters.
Again, this year she was part of the organizers of the East African Debate (EAUAD) championship, which brought together over 11 universities across East Africa. The competition was won by Mountain Kenya University.
“Seeing young people who didn’t have an idea of how to shape their lives through such activities now prospering in their daily lives is my joy,” she explains with delight.
Batamuliza’s message to other teachers is to involve students in extra-curricular activities since most youth who excel academically fail to prosper in the real world because they lack other life skills.