Last year, Jean Erick Niyitanga, a former student at GS Gahini in Kayonza District Eastern Province, emerged the best performer in physics, chemistry and biology, and second best overall among science students countrywide.
“I believe this success was not only a result of my academic work, but rather my active involvement in extracurricular activities. The Youth Impact Mission programme, particularly played a big role in this,” he says.
Niyitanga says through the programme he was able to learn that having a vision pushes one to work harder irrespective of the field one is in, and that was what motivated him to go the extra mile.
Due to the leadership training he got under the programme, he has also managed to secure himself a job at his former school as academic facilitator.
The same story goes for Luclay Kabega, a student at Lycée de Kigali.
“The programme has done a lot in mentoring by building our confidence and ambition. Although I am still a student, I believe in myself and I have a vision for my life after school,” he says.
Kabega adds that because of the skills he acquired through this programme, he has been made a leader of different clubs at his school.
What the programme does
Youth Impact Mission is a movement of young people in Rwanda which started in 2009 as a branch of the graduates from Cornerstone Leadership Academy.
The founders had realised that many youth didn’t have the opportunity to acquire certain key life skills. This was the reason behind the movement.
The initiators started moving across different schools in Rwanda, instilling in students, mainly those in A-level, skills on character development, leadership and entrepreneurship.
Youth Impact Mission has three core aspects that guide them when doing their training.
They are classified as; seven habits of highly effective people; 21 laws of irrefutable leadership and principles of leadership; as well as entrepreneurship.
According to Frank Rubaduka, the coordinator of Youth Impact Mission, they believe the training is vital for any young person to be successful in the labour market.
“When a student is equipped with all these skills on top of academics, they already have a clear vision, passion, direction and conviction that they will be successful people in future,” he says.
Reaching out to students
With about 50 trainers, administrators and volunteers, the team has been able to reach out to over 75 schools across the country and operates in 19 districts.
Last year, the team reached out to over 57,000 students, while this term alone, they have visited 32 schools.
Under the programme, students are encouraged to form clubs where they can be skilled more conveniently.
“I believe that if we do not teach our youth how to love, live and leave a legacy, someone else will teach them how to hate and be destructive,” says Samuel Birondwa, one of the founders of the project.
For Steven Burora, an entrepreneur and a mentor, academics are good, but the power of extra curriculum activities complements the curriculum.
“Students who only get academic training without extra curricula activities are not their best version. We are trying to help schools allow their students to be involved in such activities through clubs so that they can grow their leadership qualities,” he says.
Burora adds that schools should all engage in these activities to help young people become familiar with the outside environment and especially give them the confidence to start their projects.
Citing the example of a student from Nyamata High School in Bugesera, Burora says he has been helped out of addiction to drugs through the programme, and is now one of the trainers helping in impacting other youth.
“Youth have developed their own vision from the movement. This is because some of them are in school but if asked what they want to be in future, they really don’t know. But we help them identify their dreams and be able to groom them,” he says.
What schools think
In the schools that the training takes place, there are massive positive changes made within a short time.
For instance, at SOS Technical Secondary School in Kinyinya, the training started last year, but the results are overwhelming.
Jerome Ndagijimana, the head teacher, attributes some three projects running at his school to Youth Impact Mission.
“There is an electronics project developed by IT students that help track daily activities like class attendance,” he says.
According to him, the project is also expected to be extended to the library section to ease and monitor the collections and the type of books borrowed by students or teachers.
Ndagijimana says since the training started at his school, students and teachers have gained more skills and knowledge on project development and implementation.
“What students study here at school is only related to the national curriculum. The project has come as additional support in skilling them to develop their own projects.
“Knowing how knowledge can be linked to the labour market is important. That is why such extra skills are vital to us as a school,” he says.
Ndagijimana, however, explains that schools need to look beyond just academics, saying a successful person is the one who is able to combine both extra-curricular skills with what they are taught in class.
At Kigali Leading Technical Secondary School in Kigal, the founder and the principal of the school Alphonse Habimana, says they have registered a lot of positive changes since the programme started last year.
“Being a technical school, the discipline level of students was very low. But thanks to this programme, our students are now more aware of the need to lead exemplary lives,” he says.
Habimana notes that there are students who have come up with business ideas and already implementing them.
“Before the programme was introduced, I didn’t see many students thinking of how they can come up with something and make it real. But as I talk, two groups of students have started their own restaurant in Muhima in Nyabugogo,” he says.
Habimana adds that there are also others who are doing handicrafts such as laptop bags, women’s and men’s bags, among others.
Luke Karemanjingo, the headmaster at GS Gahini in Kayonza District, Eastern Province, says without discipline, it’s hard to achieve one’s dreams, and that is what Youth Impact Mission has proved to his students.
He says there are some students who have put the training into practice by helping elderly people in the community.
“During their free time, these students engage in activities that are mainly community work. This has also kept them occupied and they have less time to engage in bad habits,” he says.
Dr Joyce Musabe, the deputy director-general in charge of curriculum and pedagogical materials at Rwanda Education Board (REB), says although she is not aware of the programme she seconds such initiatives as long as they don’t interfere with normal curriculum.
“When REB comes out with the national curriculum, it is always designed in a way that there is some free time. If a school can use that time to carry out what they think can add value to the academics of the students, then it’s so encouraging,” she says.
Students speak out
Samuel Muhawinimana, S6 student at Kigali Leading Technical School
With my colleagues, we have opened up a restaurant in Nyabugogo. I attribute this to the training I acquired from Youth Impact Mission. Before the programme, I used to have a business idea but I was afraid of failing. I have since realised that fear leads to business failure. I worked on it and here I am an entrepreneur.
Phoebe Gasasira, S6 student at Kigali Leading Technical School
I started my own business of making bags using local materials (Igitenge) last year. Right now I am able to cater for my small expenses as well as help my parents in paying part of my school fees. I am a student who is self-employed already, thanks to the Youth Impact Mission for the extra skills they gave us.
Ange Marie Isimbi, S6 student at SOS Secondary School Kinyinya
I joined this school two years back, but I was forced to repeat a class I had already passed. This demotivated me and I lost all hope. When the programme was introduced last year, I learnt that without knowing where you are going, you can fall for anything. I have learnt why it’s good to keep on trying no matter the situation.
Andy Kamali Manzi, S4 student at SOS Secondary School Kinyinya
When it comes to class work, I am always an average performer, which my parents find okay. I didn’t know that there was another important part in my life I was missing and this programme has given me a clear picture of how the real world outside school is. I now worry less on how to achieve my dreams because I have a solution.