Berthilde Mukangenera is a professional teacher who has served for the last eight years. Currently she serves at Groupe Scolaire Remera Catholic 1 a secondary school found in Kimironko sector of Gasabo district.
For her time in service, she says the only means which has given her the chance to advance through investing in various projects is acquiring loans from Umwalimu SACCO.
“I have served for eight years but as a teacher, Umwalimu SACCO has given me the chances to acquire valuable loans easily and at an affordable interest with no security unlike other financial institutions.
This has improved on my family’s life style and I expect more given the measures I have taken in planning for the future using the chance to access loans,” Mukangenera said.
She explains that according to the cost of living and the responsibilities in the family, she believes it would have been impossible to either achieve or aspire to reach the heights she intends with only her salary.
“I used to spend almost all I earned on the unstable rent costs of Kigali, and other related basic needs,” she said.
“If I had decided to only depend on a teacher’s salary, I could not have managed to start on my plans based on how it has so far cost me. Depending on the expenditure in comparison to the earning, I could not be able to save for future developments.”
Mukangenera`s dream has always been to own a permanent house structure in Kigali and she currently owns two in Kimironko, a Kigali suburb.
“The two houses stand at an approximate selling price of Rwf 20 million but I intend to develop them further to add more value to them,” she told SundayMag.
She briefly gives her state of financial background which initially made owning a house an unreachable dream.
“The foundation of owning the two structures comes as a result of the first loan I acquired and built a small house in Remera. I later sold it and because I had a clean record I was again entrusted with the second loan which brought me to the current state.”
She noted that starting small to the current status has created trust not only with cooperative society officials but that fellow teachers have also borrowed a leaf from her which has given her confidence to go on with her plans.
Mukangenera`s expectations are high. “My family lifestyle has changed and I believe if my plans get on well, I intend to give out these two houses for rent. This will see an approximate additional Rwf 300,000 and more from the two houses on addition to my monthly pay,” she said.
She also advised others to look out for opportunities that can easily give them hope in life and achieve the many dreams for development.
“Apart from a few, people work with plans they intend to accomplish. It is therefore wise and advisable to utilize opportunities that may act as side incomes. This may not only be useful as they carry on their duties, but may also be of great importance at old age,” she advised.
According to Robert R Asiimwe, the Acting General Manager Umwalimu SACCO, a little increase on a teacher’s salary creates negligible impact on his or her income, but means a lot on the national budget.
Adding that giving a chance for teachers to access loans encourages them to carry on development activities.
“An increase of like Rwf 10,000 on a teacher’s salary creates a small impact to that teacher but reflects a lot on the national budget. If they are given easy access to loans, it encourages them to carry out development activities,” Asiimwe said.
He 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 fulfil to meet the level or standard of getting loans which includes 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,” Asiimwe said.
He explained that as a measure of efficiency and quality service, the period within which members have to pay stands at 2 years, to avoid long term loans so as to enable other members to have access to loans too.
The maximum amount of cash that can be given as individual loan stands at Rwf 3 million while when members with common interest come together as a cooperative, they stand the chance of securing more.
According to Asiimwe, the total number of members who have so far benefited from the SACCO in terms of loans and advances totalled to 23,900 as of December 31, 2009.
“However, the total number of members added up to 42,017 as of December 31, 2009, and we are targeting 50,000 members in 2010 as we strive to have the number of loan beneficiaries increase to at least 43 percent.”
However, he expressed certain challenges in the cooperative operation pointing out delays in loan recovery and members’ savings due to slow operations in processing teachers’ salaries at the district, sharing information amongst members and the teachers’ tight timetable that also frustrates certain operations when they fail to respond to the program.
Louise Marie Hakizwimana is also another teacher who testifies the positive changes the Cooperative has brought to her family.
She says that life has changed ever since she started working with it.
“I am a parent but my husband did not have a job for some time. I was therefore responsible for everything in the home. Life was indeed hard. But I managed to secure a loan from Umwalimu SACCO and started a shop in our home area,” Hakizwimana explained.
“Currently, my husband is occupied in the shop and we are earning out of it. Day to day necessities no longer a problem because we get it from the profits we make.”
Hakizwimana said that she got the first loan which was Rwf 250,000 and later secured Rwf 1.5 million and she is targeting a Rwf 3 million loan.
“I am planning to get a loan of Rwf 3 million as soon as I finish servicing the Rwf 1.5 million. My plans are going high each day because I have to plan depending on the amount of money I intend to get,” she said.
“I have to plan ahead or before I get the money so that by the time I get cash, I have what to do with it. This helps me to avoid abrupt plans which may not even be appropriate given the amount of cash that I may have at hand.”
According to Hakizwimana, some teachers have come up with groups of five and above to secure reasonable amounts of money so long as they have a target or save for developmental projects which call for mass investment.
“Other teachers have formed cooperatives of five members and more which has enabled them to be trusted with capital worth Rwf 5 million which they have invested in various projects. Others have also built homes which was hard for them before the cooperative was initiated.”
He advises, “The earlier the better, teachers should use the chances given to them to improve on their social economic status.”
UMWALIMU SACCO, a Savings and Credit Cooperative for Rwandan teachers is an initiative of president Paul Kagame to empower the teachers towards uplifting their social-economic welfare and to contribute to socio-economic development of the community in which they live.
With its head office in Remera, Gasabo district, it currently operates with branches in more than 15 districts including Gasabo, Gicumbi, Musanze, Muhanga, Rubavu, Huye, Nyamagabe, Rusizi, Nyanza, Nyagatare, Kayonza, Rwamagana, Ngoma, Karonge, and Nyamata