Feature: Akilah Institute : Upgrading customer care through women empowerment

Claudette Mukeshimana, a second year student at Akilah Institute for women has gone places she never expected.The 25-year- old lost her parents during  the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and she now looks after her two siblings.
Claudette Mukeshimana (R) discussing with other students.(Photo D.Umutesi)
Claudette Mukeshimana (R) discussing with other students.(Photo D.Umutesi)

Claudette Mukeshimana, a second year student at Akilah Institute for women has gone places she never expected.

The 25-year- old lost her parents during  the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and she now looks after her two siblings.

“After completing senior six at St. Andre, I stayed at home with no hope of upgrading. But always God makes a way when one least expects,” says Mukeshimana.

Akilah Institute provides substantial scholarships.

“A friend brought me forms to fill, although I didn’t have funds. I gave it a try. Luckily I was called by the Principal of the Institute that I was among the lucky students to attain the Akilah scholarship,” Mukeshimana recalls.

About her aspirations after graduating, she said: “When I graduate, I want to become a receptionist and an independent woman. I take hospitality as a personal growth.

Before I joined the institute, I was a loner; I didn’t like interacting with people, I was hopeless.”

She adds that after knowing the essence of hospitality, she is happy around people and it has changed her a lot.

She got a chance to do a- one-month internship in Hong Kong. The institute gave students a hospitality exam which she passed.

“Besides being nervous since it was the first time to work in a restaurant, my perception about the people in Hong Kong changed. They helped me in ways I didn’t expect them to,” Mukeshimana narrates.

Her most memorable moment while in Hong Gong was when she ate sea food especially crabs.

“They have many kinds of sea food. We are usually scared to try out new foods but it’s not any different from ours. I didn’t get any kind of complications,” she explains.

According to Carol Rugege, the Director of admissions, recruitments and marketing, the Akilah Institute for Women officially opened in January 2010.

“The Institute prepares young women to find meaningful employment and launch ventures in the fastest growing sector of the economy which is the tourism industry,” Rugege discloses.

She further adds that the first Diploma entails Leadership & Hospitality Management, aiming at changing the face of customer service in Rwanda.

“Our major focus is to train students in Communication skills, building their confidence, empowering them to establish goals both professional and personal.

We encourage them to think outside of the box and to be passionate about being entrepreneurs once they complete the programme,” Rugege stresses.

Regarding the Institute having programs for women only, she said: “Men can benefit but we want to first deal with the imbalance that we see as far as gender is concerned in the workforce.

For example I went to dinner with a family member and at the restaurant all the waiters were men. The only woman there was an Akilah intern. So these are some of the issues we want to solve in the workforce.”

The Institute petitions local businesses to employ the students as interns. There are several interns in most restaurants and hotels in Kigali city.

The national cricket Team manager, Eddie Mugarura Balaba, narrates his worst customer service experience.

“As I walked into a hardware shop to buy a socket (plug), I think it was a family business. 

The man at the counter was reading a newspaper while a woman also in the counter (probably his wife) was conversing with a client or friend,” says Balaba

He adds that he tried to call for attention and even waved the Rwf5, 000 to show he wanted to buy something but all in vain.

“I was so frustrated that I walked out of the shop. However, I’m impressed with the way restaurants and hotel’s customer care service has stepped up. Several of them have made an effort to improve,” he expresses.

When asked if he can pay extra if the service is excellent he said: “I would not pay extra but I can tip the person who offered the services if it was exceptional.”

Dorau20@yahoo.co.uk

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