Flora Marie Aimée Tuyizere yesterday wore the widest grins at Kigali Institute of Technology (KIST) after she emerged the best student from more than 400 graduates.
The 23-year-old former student of the Faculty of Science Engineering scooped a First Class degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Four years ago, she had wondered how a woman could excel in mechanics. She was joining KIST at the time.
"The first challenge I had when I was transferred was how I could become a professional engineer as not many girls are in that field," she said.
Tuyizere said when she was in secondary, an engineer in any field felt enticing, but her dreams were overshadowed by gender inequality or the perception, thereof.
"I joined the university and my desire was reinforced. My first semester was brilliant and was the motivation that I could make a difference," she said.
Tuyizere, who also plays for the national soccer and basketball teams, said with time, she cut her teeth in the course. Only three female graduands walked to the graduation ceremony in a class of more than 30 students.
Gender not an excuse
Tuyizera said being female was not an excuse to fail to perform well in technical studies.
"It's a pity is that females fear mechanical engineering and other technical courses. Women should wake up and work hard, it would also be a way to promote gender equality," she said.
The excellent performance justifies why AGGREKO international power firm already hired her as its engineer.
"I am now working with the project as an engineer and I perform well and I have a good salary.
Of the more than 400 graduates, 387 were conferred upon with bachelors. Of these, 90 were female, representing 23.3 per cent, while of the 42 awarded masters' degree, 13 were female, representing 31 per cent.
Education Minister, Dr Vincent Biruta urged the graduates to be competent and change Rwanda and the world.
"The skills you've acquired is enough for you to be entrepreneurs and employ others," Dr Biruta told the graduates.
KIST rector, Dr Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamaliya, asked the graduates to be part of change through the knowledge they have acquired.
"You have to conquer the poverty war through science and technology and be more productive to the society. Remember, you can be self-reliant as long as you are qualified," she said.