Rutsiro — On Friday 8 September 2017, over 1,121 youth, once considered delinquents and drug abusers, graduated from Iwawa Centre where they were equipped with skills to positively contribute to the economic, social and cultural development of the country.
Located at Iwawa Island on Lake Kivu, Rutsiro District, the centre gives a new lease of life to former drug and alcohol addicts after a year of rehabilitation and vocation training.
Speaking on behalf of his peers, Ally Ishimwe, gave an account of how, from drug addicts to school dropouts, to other street dwellers, Iwawa gives back hope to those whose future looked otherwise bleak.
"We have got our lives back on track and are now ready to contribute to our country's development as exemplary citizens. We will put to good use what we have learnt throughout our time here," remarked Ally Ishimwe who graduated with a certificate in tailoring.
Thomas Nkuriyehe graduated from Iwawa six years ago. He testifies that the skills he acquired have helped him rebuild his life and regain community trust.
"Those who used to fear us are now our clients. We founded a tailoring and carpentry cooperative of Iwawa graduates. Today, we bid for and win big tenders to supply school uniforms," asserted Nkuriyehe. The latter and other graduates train peers as a way of giving back to the community.
Speaking at the graduation, the Minister of Youth, Rosemary Mbabazi, encouraged graduates to be agents of transformation in society. She pledged government support to youth empowerment programmes and called on stakeholders - public and private sector players - to play their part in the reintegration of Iwawa alumni.
At Iwawa, young men between the ages of 18 to 35 undergo a six-month rehabilitation, followed by vocation and technical training. Thus, they have a second chance in life for a fair fight on the job market.
In February 2010, the Government set up Iwawa Rehabilitation and Skills Development Centre. Since then, thousands of youths were taken off streets for rehabilitation.
So far, 12,127 young males have graduated from Iwawa.