“I left my home village in 2005 at the age of 17, came to Kigali for nothing in particular, I came to search for a life, I have now got a life,” Boniface says with a smile that reveals modesty in his voice.
The continued expansion of commercial life in Kigali has ensured that many youthful Rwandans from rural areas are attracted to the lifestyle of the capital city.
However, since many do not have any particular skill to help themselves access formal employment; they are left with no choice but to wonder about the streets of the city and its suburbs looking for casual tasks.
Boniface Tushime was among such youths hanging about in Kiyovu Cya’bakene before he benefited from a World Vision Rwanda project to help teenagers in Kigali learn basic technical skills in plumbing, hairdressing, tailoring and wielding.
Tushime like so many other youthful Rwandans left his home village in Cyangugu for Kigali” in search of a better life”, as he terms it. Better life, he got as he admits but the journey was extremely trying and inspirational.
Today, thanks to World Vision Rwanda, Boniface is able to pay rent for his own house in Kiyovu and afford tuition fee for his ‘clever’ young brother who studies in a secondary school back in Cyangugu. That is the life that he says he came searching for anyway.
Boniface is part of the large numbers of teenagers that leave villages and migrate to urban centres especially Kigali in search of employment.
Today, Kigali’s population ranges from 857,719 to over a million according to National Statistic Institute-by 2002 estimates, 52 percent of this figure are youths, this has ensured the creation of a large mass of unproductive and unskilled younger people concentrated in one place.
Cyangugu and Gisenyi-though blessed with fertile soils are some of the areas worst hit by rural urban migration by the youth.
When these teenagers invade the city, they tend to concentrate in very congested suburbs and also hang about trading centres with their spades, hoes and axels which has increased already widespread inequalities of people in Kigali city.
Kiyovu (where Boniface lives) is one such suburb where inequality is so obvious. Kiyovu has two sections, one known as Kiyovu for the rich and Kiyovu for the poor.
In 2005, when Boniface arrived in Kigali, he worked as a porter on several building projects in the city, “being a pouter is very easy” he says, “you need not have any particular skill.” For five months, Boniface worked as a porter in several construction companies in in Kigali.
During those five months Boniface worked as a porter, he was lucky enough to meet an acquaintance- Faustin Sibomana from his village town. Sibomana who was working as a mason offered Boniface accommodation at his house in Kimicyanga-a suburb of Kigali.
However, like so many casual jobs elsewhere, the construction projects began reducing and finally ended. Soon after, Boniface was stuck in Kigali, no income “and my life stopped,” he says. Boniface says he was introduced to World Vision Rwanda who have a three year project helping orphans and vulnerable children as a result of HIV/Aids in Kigali city.
World Vision Rwanda sponsored Boniface for a six month plumbing course with Roko Construction (one of the biggest construction companies in the East African region.)
“After my internship with Roko, they gave a job on one of their projects, I did several projects with them before I left for my current job with Thomas& Piron,” says Boniface.
He adds, “Now I have a good life, I can pay my own bills and also help my younger brother. So am happy my life is in my own hands.”
Today, Boniface is able to earn enough to sustain his own life in the capital city and help his young brother who is still in Cyangugu.
Boniface says his is willing to sacrifice even his own career progress so that his brother can attend school, he states that his brother is very bright and will have a great future.
“Am determined to keep in school as long as I have a job, am not worried about the burden of him depending on me.”
According to the 2005 National population policy, Rwanda’s population is extremely young, In 1996, 49 percent of the population was less than 15 years old and today is 60 percent is less than 20 years old, only 3 percent of Rwanda’s population is above 65 years.
This implies a very high rate of dependency-which currently stands at 104 percent and has put enormous pressure in health care, food, education, employment and shelter.
The shortage of such basic necessities in rural areas has forced many young men and women to flock to urban centres-in search of a livelihood-and at times, any livelihood.
This is how Boniface also ended up in Kigali, after having lost both of his parents to HIV/Aids and was left with no choice but to run to Kigali where he hoped to find something to do even though he had dropped out of school after form three.
Clementine Ntukabumwe, a facilitator with World Vision Rwanda says some donors in Australia offered to begin a three year technical training project to help teenagers in the country learn basic skills and find jobs.
The project began in 2005 and has taken 89 teenagers to technical institutions where they learn skills to help them get employment and be able to get them off the streets to a self sustaining life.
“We have facilitated 16 teenagers to learn plumbing, 20 in tailoring, 32 in wielding, 20 in carpentry and 12 in hairdressing.”
Says Ntukabumwe, she adds that the teenagers are all enrolled in a six month training programme, “after which we give them basic equipment to start off their careers. So far, Boniface is among the most successful in this project.”
The World Vision Rwanda is partnering with local government authorities in Kigali to keep teenagers off the streets.
We work with local authorities to identify children that are in need assistance and ones that are capable of using this assistance properly. After training we follow up on their progress in their chosen careers.”
Ntukabumwe says the project specifically targets teenagers that never had a chance to go to school or bright students that somehow failed to continue with their education.
“I’m very grateful to World Vision, I don’t know the particular person who helped me but they saved me from a very bad life,” concludes Boniface.