IWAWA - It was joy and fanfare on Wednesday as 752 former street children graduated from Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Skills Development Centre (IRVSDC).
A high-powered government delegation, led by Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, witnessed the colourful ceremony as previously hopeless youth collected their certificates after successfully completing a nine-month training programme in five technical areas.
After rewarding the three best performers, Makuza said that what the centre had achieved was a perfect response to sections of the Western media who attempted to portray the centre, when it opened last year, as a “incarceration camp”,.
The Island is located on Lake Kivu in Boneza Sector, Rutsiro District in the Western Province.
A total of 253 students completed in Construction, 157 in Bee Keeping, 156 in Commercial Farming, 108 in Carpentry, and 101 in Tailoring.
The ceremony was also attended by diplomats, parents and guardians.
Makuza observed that the centre achieved its initial objective which was to transform street children into responsible and skilled citizens.
“A lot was said when this centre opened; critics had a field day spreading all sorts of false rumours, but fortunately we did what is right for our people.”
“Our actions speak for themselves.”
He went on to say that, in the past, some people attacked government programmes such as Gacaca courts and the anti-Nyakatsi drive, but later realised how successful the programmes were.
Nicholas Niyomugabo, the coordinator of the centre, said the vocational school has 1,617 students with 580 still undergoing rehabilitation, while 1, 057 are training in various skills.
The students also learn different languages including English and Kiswahili, as well as Mathematics as they are prepared to reintegrate into the society.
Emmanuel Musabyimana, who spoke on behalf of the graduands, said that they now have hope for the future, and promised to put to good use their newly acquired skills.
Musabyimana, a former drug and alcohol addict pointed out that he feels equipped enough to take on the challenges of life.
Charles Kabanda, the interim chair of the Iwawa Parents Association, whose son was drug dealer, said that, as parents and guardians, they were ready to support the government in the process to re-integrate their children back into the society.
The Minister of Youth, Protais Mitali, said that the emerging success story of Iwawa centre is now prompting parents to increasingly seek admission for their children.
Rwanda is placing special emphasis on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as one of the strategies to help accelerate economic development.