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|Another successful school year is behind us!|
The long-awaited school holidays have finally started for the children in Rwanda, and in our two secondary schools in Kivumu silence has suddenly replaced the everyday murmur and clamour. This time the silence is a positive thing and it means a break. As one generation of students leaves our vocational and technical schools, and as one generation goes on holidays and prepares for new school challenges, yet another, new, generation is preparing to arrive.
So this is an opportunity to take a look back at the past school year. This year we had a record number of students – 467. And judging by how things are going now and the interest shown to enroll in the first year, it seems that next year we will have even more students.
We saw off one more generation of trained tradespersons. It was nice to see all these young people looking into the future with high expectations, fully prepared for new life experiences. They are all hoping to find employment soon and thus secure a better life for themselves. Our experience so far tells us that most of our students will find employment easily. We train builders, tailors, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and welders. And in Rwanda there is a constant demand for such well-trained tradespersons so I have no doubt that all of those who are not afraid to work will soon find a job.
This assumption actually proved correct when, at the start of this school year, I wanted to hire several of our former students in our vocational school to work as practical teacher assistants. It was impossible to find an available former student! All of them already had jobs, either in Rwanda or even in Uganda. The young people who graduate from our school are really in high demand. And we are very proud of this! This is exactly what we aspire to; this is the purpose of our efforts – to educate these young people and by doing so, to put bread into their hands to help them for their future. At the same time this is also a good indication that our schools are doing a good job and it is a recognition of the quality of our programs.
If I say that 90 percent of our former students find employment, you will then surely ask "what happened with the remaining 10 percent?" Well, those are our former female students. It seems that before going out to look for employment, they have decided to get married and start a family!
More and more of our former students, after a while, feel the need to come back to our school. They come to boast about their successes, to tell us where they are now and what they do, but also to thank us for giving them an opportunity to go to school. They often joke at my expense, saying that I was too harsh on them, that I 'chased' them, made them study and work harder. Back then, they say, they would always run away from me, but now, they admit, they are extremely grateful for the exact same thing. Because we taught them discipline, how to work hard and respect towards other people. When I hear one of them saying these things, I think to myself, what more is there to life than this?
We are happy and proud to see that they have succeeded in life and are now able to take care of their parents, who did not get the chance to go to school themselves and are thus jobless and mostly live in poverty.
I remember the time when I first arrived for my mission in Kivumu. People were hungry. Initially we started handing out food in the village: beans and corn flour. But that proved to be a bad move, for more than one reason. There was more theft in the village as a result. People stole from each other. And handing out food sent a message that people didn't have to do anything in life because someone else would provide everything for them.
We did not want the youth of Kivumu to grow up this way. We did not want to create a culture of dependence when there was so much potential in the young people of the village. They only needed to be given a chance to make something out of their lives.
We opted for a long-term plan. Perhaps there would still be hunger in the village, but in the long run, by providing education to the youth, we will eventually reduce the number of those who are hungry, because through education they will all get a chance to work and earn their own food. This is the key!
Having said that, one cannot learn on an empty stomach. And so, thanks to our donors, in addition to free education we provide a warm meal for our students every single day. And now we are where we are. And we are very proud and happy to be here!
I am especially glad to see that our former students, and also our teachers, many of whom also received their education at our school are very much appreciative of our efforts. They are well aware that behind it all there are a lot of people who have helped us - donors who have generously supported us.
During one of their regular visits to Kivumu, the married couple Maja and Željko Garmaz, founders of the Heart for Africa (Srce za Afriku) charity and authors of the book entitled “Our Man in Africa”, decided to baptize their 17-month-old son Grga in our very mission. It was carried out in a truly African style, with singing and drums, and I was both the baptizer and the godfather.
But what happened after the baptism ceremony came as a great surprise and honour. The teachers at our schools, well aware of the efforts by Maja and Željko to raise donations for our schools through the charity, presented a valuable gift to their son... little Grga got a sheep!
“You are our family now”, Immaculee Iyambaje, the school secretary, told them.
In Rwanda, when someone gives you a sheep it means that you are permanently tied with that family. It goes like this: You receive a sheep as a gift and the first lamb the sheep gives birth to is supposed to be given back to the family you got the sheep from. And so on. Thus a lifetime of friendship and family bonds is created.
We were all touched, because it made us realize that our teachers are well aware that their education was made possible by good people and their donations; that their education was made possible by people who seek out donations, as well as by those of us who urge them to work and study every day.
This was very motivating because it shows that we achieved what we wanted the most. By giving education, we put bread into the hands of the people and made it possible for them to live a life that we all deserve to have.
The fullness of my vocation and calling was realized. Knowing that people will be able to celebrate the coming Christmas with more dignity than before, I will be awaiting this wonderful holiday with great peace of mind.
Translated by Branimir Mlakić