This one's for the Kids
There is a generation in Rwanda for whom the genocide is ancient history. The country remembers those dark days for three months every year, and many adults bear physical scars. But what occurred nearly two decades ago, occurred before much of this population was born.
In fact, virtually half of all Rwandans are under the age of eighteen. So for them, that terrible episode is not a memory; it’s a subject learned in school. It’s literally History. The future, for these kids, is much more applicable.
School is the center of their lives. It’s where they imagine what comes next. They take classes in cosmetology and business management. They practice reporting local news. The really brave ones study medicine. Without prompting, nearly all of them say they want to visit the U.S., and the daily Voice of America broadcasts are to students here what recess is to kids in America.
As recently as February, students at G. S. Murama had to bring a Jerry can of water to class every day, along with their books. The alternative was an unprotected rain-fed well which sounds clean, until you see it.
Emmanuel, a sixth-grader, raises a bucket filled with opaque brown liquid out of an open rectangular hole in the ground. This is the water they used to clean classrooms and latrines. It’s also the water they sometimes drank. This water is bad, Emmanuel says. It can give you diseases.
But G.S. Murama finally has a tap stand, and all the students want to demonstrate how to use it. One by one, they turn the red handle and out pours a clear, steady stream. They cup their palms under it and bring cold water to their lips. They wash their hands and faces.
This water is cleaner than what Emmanuel gets at home, he tells us. And as the sun sets, students begin walking back to the tap stand with their families’ empty Jerry cans. The water they get here will be used for every household need--cooking, cleaning, bathing, and drinking.
The future is brighter for kids at G. S. Murama because of this tap stand. It helps, too, that the government’s Vision 2020 intends to transform Rwanda’s “subsistence agriculture economy [into] a knowledge-based society.” That means Rwanda wants its citizens to start businesses, become experts in emerging fields, and play a role in the global community--all things these students are eager to start doing already.
The plan includes infrastructure, too, and Rwanda wants to become the first country in Africa with 100% access to clean water. So our partners at Water for People are working to build sustainable solutions for all of Rulindo District. They want to make sure no students in Rulindo are forced to use dirty well water ever again.
In the meantime, at G. S. Murama, Emmanuel and his compatriots are doing their part to help out. If they focus on their studies and stay healthy, they could really become journalists and doctors. Some of them could become Rwanda’s next leaders. And judging by that alone, Rwanda stands a good chance at becoming Africa’s next leader.
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A story and photographs by Natalie Ingle