A total of 711 students from Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Skills Development Centre (IRVSDC) graduated yesterday.
The students were trained in various courses such as bee-keeping, carpentry, commercial farming, masonry and tailoring. This is the third graduation of mainly former street children, at this centre located at Iwawa Island of Lake Kivu, Rutsiro District in the Western Province of Rwanda.
Prime Minister Dr Pierre Damien Habumuremyi officiated at the pass out ceremony which attracted hundreds of jubilant parents and relatives of the former street kids. In his keynote address, the Premier said the government intends to transform the centre into a well recognised institution teaching vocational skills.
"As we strive to significantly improve the standards of this institution, it's our obligation to continuously support these young men to completely transform their lives after here," he said.
Habumuremyi said that as a way of achieving the essence under which the centre was established, there was need for the general public to intensify the fight against illicit drugs. The Prime Minister encouraged parents to jointly work with local leaders to closely monitor the graduates after they leave Iwawa.
He disclosed that plans were underway to establish a similar centre to cater for girls, saying that the government would strive to ensure all the graduates find employment. Following yesterday's graduation, the Association of Rwandan Motorcyclists (ATAMOMIRWA) pledged to support 300 youths by giving them a chance to enrol and acquire driving licenses.
10 students from each of the departments will be employed to help in the training of others who will stay behind while 137 intend to continue with their education.
On his part, Nicolas Niyongabo, the coordinator of the centre, disclosed that the students have been able to make valuable items worth over Rwf 68million. A research conducted last year by the Ministry of ICT in partnership with Kigali Health Institute (KHI) shows that some youth begin consuming illicit drugs at a young age of 11.
During yesterday's graduation, Billy Kalisa, one of the graduates from Nyagatare District, gave an account of how his life has been greatly transformed during the one year he stayed at the centre.
Having started consuming illicit drugs while still in Primary four, Kalisa testified how he is now a changed person. The president of the Iwawa parents' body, Charles Kabanda, noted that the sustainability of the program could also be the responsibility of parents because the cost of training the children for a whole year was high.
"There is need for cost sharing where parents should be able to contribute some money for the welfare of their children," he said.