Itorero: Connecting Rwandan youth living abroad to their homeland

It can be hard to connect to Rwanda when you live thousands of miles away. It can be equally difficult when you don’t speak the language. To respond to this challenge, Rwanda created a ten day civic education program, Itorero, which brings students living abroad to Rwanda to learn about the country’s development and how they can participate.

The program, in its 6th year, concluded on Saturday with students getting certificates of recognition. Minister of Education, Dr. Vincent Biruta called on the youth to actively think about their role in developing the country. The training was attended by 276 students from 18 countries.

“You have learnt about Rwandan achievements but a lot more needs to be done because self-reliance is a process and it starts with you. The journey continues; the freedom and sovereignty we want will come after self-reliance. Self- reliance should be a goal for everyone and especially you: the youth,” Dr. Biruta said.

Other officials who gave lectures at the Itorero include Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo as well as the Minister of Youth and ICT, Philbert Nsengimana.

Minister Mushikiwabo said that it is important to be open without losing our Rwandan cultural values.

“If there is one message I want to leave you is to carry your dignity Agaciro with humility,” she said.

Minister Mushikiwabo also talked about Rwanda’s voice in global affairs. She told the youth Rwanda on the United Nations Security Council has the chance to articulate the voice of Africa. As a country which experienced genocide, Rwand has the obligation to spark the world’s thinking on how to prevent conflicts rather than managing them.

"Take time and think about your personal role as one of Rwanda’s valuable voices. How can you make that voice heard more loudly and clearly? How can you export and communicate Rwandan values - dignity, where you live?” she added.

One of the participants, Frank Gashugi, a Rwandan studying in Madagascar, said that the program equipped them with knowledge on various issues which they can use to make a difference.

“We have committed to be good ambassadors of the country through associations and use of social media platforms, to counter falsehoods about Rwanda by sharing what is true,” Gashugi said.

The 276 Rwandan students included 72 young women and 204 young men. This forum called Indangamirwa gathers young people aged between 18- 35 years. They learnt about Rwanda’s history and had a chance to ask questions. They also learnt about current development initiatives in Rwanda as well as discussing future initiatives and how they could participate. Since 2008, about 1,800 youth living abroad have participated in Itorero.