President Paul Kagame has called on the youth to strive hard and build a dignified Rwanda that is based on love, unity and togetherness.
The head of state was speaking yesterday while addressing close to 3,000 young men and women gathered at Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali.
The youth are part of a larger group of 38,000 who participated in Urugerero National Service, a volunteer programme where the younger generation take part in projects such as constructing houses for the vulnerable, classrooms, and roads among other activities of public interest. The president told the youth that they now have a strong foundation and a lot is expected of them as future leaders.
The Rwandan government has prioritised education and skills development for the youth so as to ensure they have a better and responsible future.
The country has experienced the wrath of irresponsible youth who, during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, participated in the killing.
The president emphasised that it is their responsibility to see that their country remains stable and unified.
“It’s your responsibility to drive Rwanda forward. This is your country; you’re not guests, work hard.
“Rwanda's development is your business. Our part is to give you a better foundation,” Kagame said, drawing a thunderous applause from the audience.
The event, dubbed “Meet the President” was broadcast live on National TV and radio and streamed online with interactive participation on social network sites.
“We are building a new Rwanda. The old Rwanda was destroyed by poorly brought-up people. Instead of getting a pen and a paper to build their country, the youth took pangas (machetes) and mercilessly killed their colleagues,” the president noted.
“Our history should serve you a lesson. Young people play a key role in impacting the structural transformation of the country. We have given you knowledge and education to build a strong Rwanda.”
The head of state told the young people that good education is the foundation of a good life; a bad education is the source of the country’s destruction.
He said Urugerero serves as a channel that models young people to be responsible citizens who will build their country for future generations.
Kagame thanked the youth for participating in the voluntary service and also hailed the initiators of the programme, which he described as the “oasis of knowledge”.
“Our job as leaders is to empower and give you the foundation while your part is to work hard and multiply the results.”
The event was characterised by a question-and-answer session that addressed a wide range of topics, including education, ICT, energy, health and students’ wellbeing.
One of the burning issues was access to student loans and scholarships.
The president made it categorically clear that while the country prioritises education, there are also other sectors that need funding as well. He emphasised that the resources allocated to student loans and scholarships are minimal and priority is given to the poorest families.
“We shall not deny children from poor families to access university education and sponsor those ones from good families. Well-to-do students can sponsor themselves,” Kagame said.
In the past, the government gave scholarships to the best performers irrespective of their financial muscle.
In his remarks, Boniface Rucagu, the chairman of Itorero National Taskforce, said the youth, through Urugerero, have learned to be responsible citizens.
“They have been taught to be one and build a unified country. What happened in 1994 shouldn’t happen again. These young people have been nurtured to build a strong Rwanda,” he said.
Students speak out
“Meeting the president is the best thing that has happened to me. He is a very good president, he answered all our questions.
“These kinds of discussions inspire us to be responsible citizens,” said Alexis Ndagijimana, from Ngoma District, Eastern Province.
Ndagijimana, who represented his peers from Kibatsi Cell in Ngoma District, plans to study languages at the university.
Mathias Nkurikiyimana from Musanze District in the Northern Province said that meeting President Kagame was something he always craved.
“I like the way he explained issues affecting our education. We are glad students from poor families are going to benefit from the new government bursary scheme,” he said.
Shamim Uwimbabazi from Huye District said: “The challenges in the education system needed intervention from the president. We are very pleased by the way President Kagame interacts with young people.”
She stated that during the voluntary service, she leant a lot in terms of helping Rwandans, especially the needy.
“We were taught our country’s bad history and we learnt big lessons. It’s now our role to build a prosperous and peaceful Rwanda.