Agahozo Village orphans look to better life after graduation

Agahozo Shalom Youth Village yesterday graduated 125 orphans who completed high school education in various skills.
Raissa Tumukunde, 20, and her guardian after the graduation yesterday. One hundred twenty-five orphans, mainly of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, graduated at Agahozo-Shalom Village in various disciplines. . The New Times/ Collins Mwai.
Raissa Tumukunde, 20, and her guardian after the graduation yesterday. One hundred twenty-five orphans, mainly of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, graduated at Agahozo-Shalom Village in various disciplines. . The New Times/ Collins Mwai.

Agahozo Shalom Youth Village yesterday graduated 125 orphans who completed high school education in various skills.

While officiating at the graduation ceremony in Rwamagana District, Eastern Province, the Minister of State for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Albert Nsengiyumva, said his ministry was looking for ways to replicate the model used by the centre for skills development.

Agahozo-Shalom Village fuses formal and informal education to increase the skills learners acquire at the end of their schooling period.

The Village, founded by Anne Heyman for orphans, most of them as a result of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, has about 20 enrichment programmes (both academic and informal skills) and more than 20 student-run clubs to build leadership skills among the learners.

“Today, the focus is to build the necessary skills needed in the country, but before one can acquire the technical skills we need to build the core values. This school’s model is one from which others can learn,” Nsengiyumva said.

“We are holding discussions with stakeholders to see how best we can use a similar model throughout the country to establish skills development centres. With that we will be able to increase the number of beneficiaries of such programmes which will come in handy considering that more than 60 per cent of the country’s population is below 35 years.”

The minister added that he had been on a week-long tour of districts in search of places where the ministry can establish skills development centres.  

The graduation ceremony was also attended by Jerome Gasana, the director-general of Workforce Development Authority, Anaclet Kalibata, director-general of Immigration and Emigration,  and Pichette Kampeta Sayinzoga, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, among others.

Target learners

The institution targets orphaned and vulnerable youth in the country. The students are placed in a family-like structure where they are cared for with the help of house mothers.

On Tuesday, Rwanda began a series of activities of commemoration in the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in April.

Agahozo-Shalom founder Heyman asked the graduates to make use of the various skills and talents they had realised.

 The students have since built a radio station at the centre, as well as hygiene and health projects for the community around the centre.  

“When they joined in 2010, they were labelled vulnerable but that is not what they are today; they have gone beyond making themselves better people and to play a part in society’s development through various programmes such as their innovations and the building of the garden at the nearby hospital,” Heyman said.

This is the second batch of graduates from the institution.

The graduands made emotional speeches and presentations, moving some attendants to tears as they recounted the state they were in when they joined the institution.

“Some of us were so vulnerable and naive that we had considered using alcohol and drugs to get through the days. But now we can look at the future with hope, thanks to the skills that we have acquired. We are no longer orphans as we have each other as family now,” said Pacifique Rutamu.

Jean Claude Nkulikiyimfura, the institution’s director, said the Village which mostly runs on donations, takes in children from all over the country mostly aged between 15 and 17 and currently shelters about 500 orphans.

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