NLT will be heading to Rwanda with Dubai cares
Follow NLTs journey on Social Media @dubaieye1038, on this website and on air daily for live updates across the week!
The charity works towards providing children and young people in developing countries with access to quality education through the design and funding of programmes that are integrated but also sustainable. Natalie will be joining Dubai Cares in Rwanda alongside their Chief Executive Officer Tariq Al Gurg for the launch of two new programmes.
They will travel to the capital Kigali but also to the Western Province of Nyamasheke. In the more rural area of Nyamasheke the focus will be on increasing access to quality early childhood education, providing children with school readiness skills to succeed on their primary school journey.
When they travel back to Kigali they will visit a new project aimed at older children who are looking at life after school, with an emphasis on how to become entrepreneurs. Natalie will talk to the students and staff about how they set up business and their practical training needs that in the long run could transform the lives of them and their families. During the trip Natalie will find out more about how to get involved through volunteering with Dubai Cares, from building schools abroad to simply donating time or money. Dubai Cares has successfully launched education programmes reaching over 18 million beneficiaries in 53 developing countries.
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About Dubai Cares
Dubai Cares is playing a key role in helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030, by supporting programs in early childhood development, access to quality primary and secondary education, technical and vocational education and training for youth as well as a particular focus on education in emergencies and protracted crises.
Read from NLT’s Daily Journal while she was in Rwanda
Our first full day in Rwanda was on a Sunday so we decided to explore Kigali.
One of the first things you notice about this city is just how clean it is. There is a strong sense of civic responsibility & even the mayor here gets involved in litter picking. In the capital it was Car Free day. Every other Sunday only cars with multiple passengers or those car pooling are allowed on the roads so the traffic was very quiet.
That was just one of the fantastic environmentally things we noticed. In Rwanda plastic bars are also banned, in many places we found metal straws replacing plastic and glass bottles used in many places too.
The hospitality of people was just amazing too. It reminded me of Jamaica with so much greenery and the fact that we were never too far from the sound of music. Kigali was perhaps more cosmopolitan than I expected but it was a vibrant and lively place.
We also took the opportunity to visit the Hotel Des Mille Collines. It was made famous in the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda.
The film was based on the actions of Paul Rusesabagina who, while working as a house manager at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, hid and protected 1,200 Hutu and Tutsi refugees from the militia during the Rwandan genocide.
On our second day we had briefings from two of the Dubai Cares partner charities that work on the ground here in Rwanda VSO & Educate.
They talked to us about the work they do and also my the support from Dubai Cares & the UAE as a whole has been so important.
VSO or ‘Voluntary Service Overseas‘ is a British organization that sends skilled people to developing countries to work on projects that help the local community. VSO is an abbreviation for VSO recruits international professionals and Rwandan graduates to work on education and farming projects.
VSO education volunteers in Rwanda work on projects aiming to improve early childhood and primary education. They help enhance the abilities of local early childhood education teachers, primary school teachers, head teachers and local government staff. Volunteers work in classrooms, in teacher training colleges and directly in communities. The aim is to build the demand for higher calibre learning, the local skills base, and ideas to support.
VSO livelihoods volunteers work with the most disadvantaged Rwandans.
The majority of these people depend on farming as a source of food and income. They include young people, women and people with disabilities. Volunteers work to enhance Rwandans’ skills, techniques and effectiveness as co-operatives and entrepreneurs. This means they can have more income, be more self-sufficient and be able to withstand the impact of climate change.
Educate! tackles youth unemployment by partnering with schools and governments to reform what schools teach and how they teach it, so that students in Africa have the skills to start businesses, get jobs, and drive development in their communities.
Educate! was invited by Rwanda’s Ministry of Education to serve as a technical advisor to Rwanda’s national curriculum reform, which aims to equip youth with the skills they need to drive the economy, compete on the global stage, and become leaders in their communities. Educate! also supports implementation of the reform through in-school support and teacher training.
This was by far the busiest day we had…
We flew about 30 minutes to Namasheke in the Western province – we only had time to drop our bags at the hotel before we hit the road.
We went to Visit Ngoboku nursery school – The 25 kilometre journey took us over two hours! There’s a reason Rwanda is called the “land of a thousand hills”
At Ngoboko nursery we are greeted by the children singing to us in English. There’s been a real change in how things are done here. Parents say their children love coming to nursery and feel prepared for going into Primary 1. The children used to be taught in a wooden hut but they now have two brand new classrooms, running water & hygienic bathroom facilities all built thanks to VSO and Dubai Cares.
The Dubai Cares programme “Strengthening School Readiness in Rwanda” is being implemented in partnership with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Nyamasheke, one of the largest and poorest districts in the country. The program is preparing 2,520 children between the ages of 3 and 6-years for a formal school environment. The AED 5,279,731 program aims to create 30 ECE model centers that can serve as models of best practice in ECE learning.
The program’s also enhances the school environment through rehabilitation of classrooms; improve access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in schools and engaging parents and the community too. We then drove another few hours to meet the Mayor of Nyamasheke, Honorable Kamali Aime Fabien, who was interested in exploring the possibilities of expanding the Early Years education programmes and also looking at other lessons and models they could learn from the UAE. We then visited a teacher training college funded by Dubai Cares & ran by VSO. It was actually a pre-teacher training college. Where Secondary school children go to get practical skills before taking on an internationally recognised teaching qualification. It is the first time Dubai Cares has been involved in a tertiary education programme and the CEO Tariq Al Gurg was impressed with what he saw. One of the young men told me he had a great teacher in school and it was his dream to go on and be an inspiring teacher himself.
We flew back to the capital after a long day in the west of the country. It was a chance to also discover more about the history of Rwanda. We visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial and were lucky enough to have a fantastic guide for our group. The memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. It honours the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994 through education and peace-building. As a brief history between April and June 1994, an estimated one Million Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days.Most of the dead were Tutsis – and most of those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus. The scale and speed of the slaughter left its people reeling. The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994.
I had done some reading on this before I came and I remember watching the news in 1994 but being too young to fully understand the devastation. However nothing prepared me for just how harrowing it would be. At the museum we listened to radio broadcasts from what was arguably the most prominent hate media outlet, the privately owned radio station, Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). It is widely believed that so-called hate media had a significant part to play in the genocide particularly as it revealed the hiding places of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Neighbours killed neighbours and some husbands even killed their Tutsi wives, saying they would be killed if they refused. At the time, ID cards had people’s ethnic group on them, so militias set up roadblocks where Tutsis were slaughtered, often with machetes which most Rwandans kept around the house.
But there were also examples of hope Paul Rusesabagina was the manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines in 1994. He is largely credited as being the ‘saviour’ of those who sought protection at the hotel. The film Hotel Rwanda, which gives the Hollywood treatment to the events that occurred at the hotel, aided in the portrayal of Rusesabagina as the defender of Tutsis and some Hutus seeking refuge within the Hôtel des Mille Collines.
There was heavy criticism over the inactions of the UN and the complicity of some peacekeepers during the 100 days siege in 1994 but two names bucked that trend. General Romeo Dallaire, the head of the UN mission and Captain Mbaye Diagne. General Dallaire had been begging for more support on the ground from the UN with little success. Captain Diagne drove through to dangerous areas to take people to the Hôtel de mille Collins safe house, Their successful protection of over a thousand people was down to the collaboration between Paul Rusesabagina, Captain Mbaye and General Dellaire as well as some UN peacekeepers.
Following the genocide, Save the Children worked to document children across the country who had been orphaned or separated from their families. The goal was to reunite children with surviving family members or to place them with families who could raise them.
Rwanda is a young country with 80% of the population under 35 as a consequence of the genocide but also it means for many those 100 days are not in living memory and they can build a new Rwanda together. It is no longer asked if someone is a Hutu or a Tutsi people describe themselves as Rwandian.
Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world with 44% of the population living below the poverty line, Rwanda has made impressive strides towards economic growth and development. It is the most densely populated country in Africa with half of its citizens under the age of 18 years. With this in mind we drove to High School about an hour away from the capital in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.
We were here to monitor a program called “Learning and Innovation Partnership” which is being implemented in partnership with “Educate!”. The AED 3,673,500 program aims to transform secondary education by introducing practical and skills-based training in schools to pave the way for young students for future leadership roles, and empower them to start a business while still at school.
First of all we sat in on something called a Skills lab where we saw the pupils sit in groups and learn about best business practices from bookkeeping to marketing and coming up with their own ideas about new ventures.
After that we met members of the Business club – complete with their peer appointed Chairman and accountant. These were active businesses and the products were for sale (Although I wasn’t fast enough to get the woven bowls I really wanted)
The students each had their own ideas and stalls from fresh vegetables for sale, to liquid soap and hand woven place mats and bowls.
Each business owner calculated their costs and some were making a handsome profit margin of over 60%! I spoke to a young man called Frank who reassured me this profit was appropriate because “of course the time of both him and his staff was valuable”. I think he will go on and do very well.