The New Times (Kigali)

27 December 2012

Rwanda: Meet Mudenge, the Man Who Graduated At 80

Gaethan Mudenge, 80, a father of eight, was among the 426 students who graduated at the Rwanda Tourism College on Monday.

He graduated with a bachelors' degree in the department of Travel and Tourism Management.

He says that during his late 70s, he decided to embark on his childhood dream of becoming tourism operator, despite having, for half a century, been a medical practitioner.

"I like the environment and all creatures created by God, my love for tourism is something that stretches back to decades," Mudenge narrates.

Before joining the tourism college, Mugenge served as a medical assistant for 47 years in various hospitals both in Kigali and in the countryside.

"I served as a medical assistant for many years and also liked it. After my retirement in 2006, I decided to pursue my dream profession and this is the first step. I am now planning to begin a tour company to facilitate tourists coming into the country," he said

Unlike most of his fellow graduates, who upon graduating were looking forward to getting employed, Mudenge said he was looking forward to employ himself and others.

"I am in retirement already whoever can employ me can be punished as it is illegal to employ a retired person," he says jokingly, before adding, "but I will have my own company and employ other qualified tour operators. Alternatively, we can pool our resources together and form a bigger company."

Mudenge is looking forward to giving his customers 'exceptional care' to full satisfaction.

"Even when I did my internship at Rwanda Development Board, I performed better than others and the supervisor used to say that I deserved employment despite my age, so I think my age will not be a barrier to good service," he said.

Throughout his studies, Mugenge admits, his main problem was English language since his initial studies and working language had been French.

"It was difficult to study all the courses in English...it was my first time to use it in my life but because I wanted the course I did my best and I later realised that it becomes easy to study in English when you know French," he narrated.

He said that the country lack qualified tour operators, saying it was time for him and other graduates to play their role.

"Tourism activities generate profits when well done; together we can improve tourism," he said

He encouraged senior citizens who need a skill to go to school regardless of their age.

"Studying doesn't require age but the will and motivation...advanced age shouldn't be an excuse," he said.

Gustave Munyaneza, who was the representative of Mudenge's class, said the latter was a good student and reliable advisor to his classmates.

"We used to call him grand frère (big brother) much as he could be a grandfather to most of. He, however, behaved like other students in class and always outsmarted all of us during our coursework," said Munyaneza.

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