At first glance, she is soft-spoken, welcoming and her chocolate skin complexion and brown eyes just make her glow with beauty. Agnes Mukarugaba is also very strong because she has accomplished many milestones in her life. She started teaching in 1994 at Kicuciro Primary School. To this day, the Kinyarwanda teacher teaches the same subject to primary two pupils of Groupe Scolaire Gatenga I.
Becoming the best teacher in Kicuciro district for the year 2012 was well-deserved because there’s no doubt that Mukarugaba loves her job and the pupils that she educates. “She is nice to us and she teaches well. That’s why I like her,” says Seraphine Niyonshuti, a pupil in Primary Two. Her fellow student, Ellisa Ishimwe agrees and adds that Mukarugaba always interacts with them even beyond the classroom, a thing that pleases him.
Irene Niyoshima, a fellow teacher, has known Mukarugaba for a relatively short period of time but she praises her, saying, “Mukarugaba is nice, loves her job and she is very hardworking.” And with a smile on her face, Vestine Mukahigiro says that Mukarugaba is honest, social and kind. “Working with her is always easy,” she adds.
As a reward for being the best teacher, she was given a laptop and a cow, courtesy of Rwanda Education Board and the district of Kicuciro. “I was greatly humbled to emerge the winner among the many teachers that had been nominated. I started to love my job even more.”
Her life as a teacher
For the twenty years that Mukarugaba has taught Kinyarwanda as a subject, she has done it with love and determination. She believes that it is only when someone loves their job that they will be able to thrive in their career. And this is her advice to her fellow teachers.
As for setbacks, she cites low salaries as a major challenge that negatively affects all teachers and that a sustainable remedy to this solution would go a long way in improving Rwanda’s education system. Ishimwe agrees, urging the government to provide her with more equipment in order to do her job efficiently.
What moves her?
Do good. Be good to everyone at all times because it pays. This is her philosophy in life. For this reason, she thinks of President Paul Kagame with love and admiration because he strives for the good of the country. Moroever, he made it possible for all the refugees to return home. She was one of those that made it back.
It wasn’t an easy childhood. Mukarugaba wasn’t born with a silver spoon and neither was she born in the land of her ancestors. She was born in 1972 in Bujumbura, Burundi where her parents had been refugees since 1959, having fled Rwanda due to internal conflicts. Burundi is where Mukarugaba acquired her Primary, Secondary as well as a diploma in Education.
Life as a refugee was tough. Most especially, the government policies did not provide for good education for the refugees. Mukarugaba had a hard time getting accepted into good schools because the cut off points were always hiked for foreigners. And of course, being in a strange country was highly unsettling because she always felt restless. As a last born of eight children, she knew how to use tears to get her own way. “I could even get my parents to get me something else to eat if I didn’t like the meal that was prepared,” she recalls.
All that time, she dreamt of the day when it would be possible to move back to Rwanda. And as soon as the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi came to an end, she came home. The struggle for a peaceful and united Rwanda is something close to her heart because even her own siblings participated in the Liberation war. “People who had fled the country felt safe enough to come back to Rwanda. President Kagame and the RDF army made it possible and I am grateful,” she says.
In the same year of her return, she fell in love and got married to the man who is now the love of her life and the father of her four children. According to Mukarugaba, being married with children is the best thing that has ever happened to her.
This year, Mukarugaba enrolled for an Accounting course at the Independent Institute of Lay Adventists, Kigali. It’s not that she is planning to quit her job a teacher; she is just preparing herself for the future, to be resourceful even after she has retired from the profession that she has done for so many years.
“I do not have a definite plan as yet, I am still trying to figure out what I will do after here,” she says. And while she figures out her plans, she will continue to instruct her pupils with love while she serves those around her with kindness and grace.