During June, gold Youth Development Agency (gold-youth) employees left our offices in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa and joined our Rwandan team, for fresh perspective and strategic engagement around our mission to scale up in Africa and serve 38 countries by 2032.
Our Rwandan team has been hard at work to establish our footprint and build relationships with government and other strategic partners. Our time together provided a priceless opportunity to celebrate our new Kigali office with its giant banner—right on a main road from the airport— to build capacity, strengthen cross-functional relationships and reignite our vision for Africa. The time spent together also provided first-hand engagement with those working on the ground and was an eye-opener for many of us.
On our first day together, the gold team visited the area around Lake Burera and the Volcanoes National Park, travelling in jeeps through the land of a thousand hills, with its abundant tropical vegetation, people everywhere tending gardens and crops, and wearing bright kitenge cloth. We were amazed at plantations planted on the steepest of hills, with people busily preparing for the impending dry months of July and August. We saw many banners imploring us to remember, unite, renew – Kwibuka 28, so many years after the genocide. We discussed among ourselves the community living that we witnessed; for example, a sick man being carried to hospital by others, taking turns, and umuganda – the practice of community service on the last Saturday of every month, where businesses close and people work in communal areas for the benefit of all.
In Sunzu, close to the Ugandan border, gold-youth has one of our test-and-reference sites. We hiked the precipitous 4,5 kms in slippery mud down a hill to get to the school of nearly 1000 youth. The students do this hike every day, starting school at 7h00 and ending at 16h00, when they climb the hill for almost an hour to return to their homes. In one of the classrooms, a session was being facilitated by gold Facilitator Interns, using our peer education curriculum to engage the group of Peer Educators. At the back of the class, someone had written ‘Facebook’ on the blackboard. The word seemed out of place. Outside, one of our Programme Managers made conversation with an eager 15-year old learner who in broken English told her of his love of reading.
The school has a library and computers, and teachers are doing their best but it is sobering to be confronted with their daily reality. However, these bright young people are determined to be change agents, eager for the opportunity to demonstrate ethical leadership and to find sustainable solutions, setting themselves up well for post-school opportunities.
Rwanda’s Private Sector Development Strategy acknowledges that the educated workforce lacks the skills needed to improve productivity, and that urgent intervention is needed. The National Policy on Workplace Learning to Prepare Rwandan Youth for Employment describes improvement of policy frameworks to move Rwanda towards a demand-driven, labour market oriented system of training, with programmes producing the skills required in the world of work.
The gold Model supports these efforts with our training focused on self-development, work-readiness, entrepreneurship, leadership and communications skills, all of which ease transition to the world of work and increase the satisfaction of employers with the graduates they employ.
The gold Programme has demonstrated measurable success in increasing outcomes in education, risk behaviour reduction and employability. Young people are given the support to build character, self-esteem, vision, to set goals and to develop exactly the broad business skills that have been earmarked.
The Education Sector Specific Plan indicates that a high number of students are orphans; 47.91% of them do not have present fathers and 22.23% do not have both parents. The gold Programme makes psycho-social support available to encourage the most vulnerable youth to reach their goals.
Another area in which gold-youth can offer support is inclusive education. Rwanda has made great strides in enrolling girls and in making STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) education available to them. Nevertheless, in 2017, only 68% of girls progressed from secondary 3 to upper secondary, compared to 92% of boys. It is encouraging that larger numbers have started to enrol but the challenge remains to keep girls in school.
gold-youth has found that perhaps the greatest advantage of peer education is that, as young people interrogate cultural and gender-related norms among themselves, they inevitably influence their peers and infuse their community with their change in thinking. Access to education is highly influenced by community attitudes. By drawing attention to the issue and inviting discussion, community-generated solutions and a new perspective is fostered.
gold-youth can facilitate a myriad of other youth-related, health-enhancing interventions, covered in our six modules of content, namely Leadership (including Work Readiness), Self-development, Gender, Relationships and Rights, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Communication Skills and Community Action. The Education Sector Specific Plan states that various themes “… are relevant at all levels of education and require close partnership with different government ministries and other stakeholders to ensure coherence”. After our time together in Rwanda, the gold-youth team is more determined than ever to support the Rwandan government and to serve African youth as such a stakeholder.
Written by: Renette Pickering (Research and Development Manager)
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