From a distance, a little boy dances to music coming from his mobile radio. Eimable Nsanzumuremyi is a ten-year-old street kid, who managed to buy himself a radio. Many street children in Kamembe town, in Rusizi District (Western Rwanda) hassle to get a personal radio. Next to food, for them the immediate necessity is a radio.
Other residents don’t differ in priorities; radio is an all time asset that even the poorest homestead owns.
Unlike the city where there are lots of options when it comes to sources of information, radio is the only darling in rural Rwanda.
“I can’t afford a television but radio gets me all information about the world,” says Else Mutuye, an elderly woman.
Nsanzumuremyi said that radio keeps street children and many teenagers in villages on track with latest the music, celebrity updates and sports news. Missing out on their favourite radio shows is a taboo.
“I can’t miss out on Friday show at Rusizi community radio, it keeps me on track with all celebrity news and new songs on the block,” says Baptist Gasigwa, another youth.
Just like soap operas have swept across Rwanda’s cities, in villages, people have a favourite radio programme—a reason that motivates them to purchase more and more radios.
Favourite radio shows range from sensitisation to entertainment. In Rusizi for example, some of the favourite programmes are; Mumpugure, a program that educates listeners about different society issues, Friday celebrity show, Urubuga rwimikino that literally talks about sports—all these are aired at Rusizi community radio, teamed with BBC’s Urunana.
Through thick and thin, it’s about the radio and its maintenance. Village dwellers who are not blessed with electricity, diligently purchase radio batteries.
As a matter of fact, the expenses to maintain radios are slightly higher than the average standard of living in these villages.
Joseph Niyibizi is a Gibundwe resident in Rusizi district who spends 30 percent of his earnings on buying batteries for his radio. He has a mega radio that consumes six batteries at ago.
The Radio advantage
Thankfully, radios have gotten remote dwellers out of isolation—they are connected to the rest of the world because the Government’s developmental programmes are mostly transmitted on air.
“I recently heard over the radio about the latest developments of Mutuelle de santé (Public Health Insurance).
The exciting part was that Rwandans were now able to use their mutuelle cards in any part of the country,” explains Marianne Maniraguha, 47 years.
“I get excited when I get to follow up on presidential news over the radio. Where the president goes to, the medals he wins and his interaction with local residents,” added Maniraguha.
And when local leaders want to publicise any programme, community radios do it best. As they listen on, there are some residents would rather upgrade to owning several fancier radios than one TV set.