Gatarayira Theogene is a 37- year old professional teacher who has served for the last four- teen years. Currently he serves at Groupe Scolaire Bugambira in Ruramira sector in Kayonza district.
Standing behind the counter of his hardware shop in a small trading center in Ruramira sector, Gatarayira explains that as a teacher he was obliged to save 5% of his salary with Umwalimu SACCO. He, as well, bought shares equiva- lent to Rwf10, 000. He accumulated his permanent savings of 5% of his monthly net salary for six months, before applying for a loan. When it was time for him to apply for a loan, he met with no hurdles.
“With the first savings I made, and with the loans I have been getting from Umwalimu SACCO that have enabled me engage in business, my life is amazingly changing for the better,” he enthuses. He says that before the advent of Umwalimu
SACCO, it was very hard for teachers with no security and no savings to access loans from banks. “Before I got my first loan of Rwf 300,000 from Um- walimu SACCO in 2009, life was un bearable because I was relying on my meager salary which was not enough for me and my family” says Gatarayira.
Gatarayira used his first loan of Rwf 300,000 to start a retail shop and after servicing the loan, he applied for another of Rwf 750,000 in 2011that he had to repay in three years.
“I was very successful with the Rwf 750,000 loan. I decided to open up a hardware shop be- cause my village lacked one yet there were many retail shops. I also went back to university for a bachelor’s degree at Unik University in Kibungo,” he explains. He got his third loan of 1,800,000 in 2015 that he has to pay back in five years.
Gatarayira says that accessing loans has helped his personal growth, turning into a vibrant entrepreneur in his home area. “I have managed to build a house with some apartments for rent and I saved enough money to buy one hectare of land where I have planted trees for commercial purposes,” he says with a knowing smile.
The creation of a teachers’ saving and credit co-operative, Umwalimu SACCO, has improved the welfare of primary and secondary school teachers, (Umwalimu SACCO does not give incentives to teachers, it only gives loans)
Established with the guidance of President Paul Kagame to cater for the welfare of teachers, Umwalimu SACCO today has 30 branches—one in each district; and has grown in terms of equity and clientele with a total number of almost 77,000 active accounts.
Though Umwalimu SACCO has been operational since 2006, it was licensed by National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), to operate as a financial institution in 2008
Over 90% of public teachers in Rwanda totaling to 56,737 have active accounts and therefore paid salaries through Umwalimu SACCO. The total number of teachers, about 44,000 has accessed loans.
Speaking to The New Times in an exclusive interview Uwambaje Laurence the Director General of Umwalimu SACCO explains that the formation of the SACCO and its saving culture has been a tremendous success in addressing teach- ers’ financial needs and has catapulted teachers out of poverty. Today, UMWALIMU SACCO works with the Umurenge SACCOs to enable teacher’s access their Umwalimu SACCO accounts through an interface technology.
According to Uwambaje, the government of Rwanda has unwaveringly supported the SACCO over the years. The cabinet meeting of October 2012 ordered that a special program to support the SACCO be put in place for 10 years until 2022.
The government then agreed to boost the SACCO loan book by Rwf 30 billion, to be disbursed in ten years at a maintained rhythm of 5 billion the first year, 1 billion the second year, 5 billion the third year,… To enable them reach out to as many teachers across the country.
She explains that like any other Savings and Credit Cooperative, Umwalimu SACCO engages in two principle activities which include managing members’ savings got from their monthly deductions of 5% of the member’s net salary through a check-off system.
These savings are made as permanent savings and recycled into loans that are given to members.
“There are principles, teachers have to fulfill to meet before get- ting loans which include; being a member of the cooperative, having a six months consistent saving, having full share capital of Rwf 10,000 that is payable once and getting committed to let his or her salary go through SACCO as a principle source of income,” Uwambaje explains. Primary and secondary public school teachers access loans at an interest of 11% down from 18% of other banks per year on project meant to increase their income source or allow them to own their homes under mortgage financing. Consumption loan rates were also lowered, from 14% to 13% per year.
“Teachers welcomed the establishment of Umwalimu SACCO and believed that as a financial institution formed with a sole purpose to serve them, the cooperative would greatly help in addressing their challenges and tremendously improve their personal finances.”