Two years after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, at the National University of Rwanda, Huye Campus, life was tough for students who had just survived one of the worst atrocities the world has ever had.
Since the country had many orphans and it was hard to find guardians for them, 12 students made a decision to start an association that would help them take care of each other at school and outside.
On October 10th, 1996 AERG was created.
“It was not easy. It took us one year working in secret because we knew people would hardly understand us,” Ntaganira Vincent, one of the 12 founding members of AERG-Association des Etudiants et Eleves Rescapés du Genocide told KT Press.
As AERG celebrates its 21stAnniversary today, Ntaganira is cheerful that the work they began is bearing fruits.
“Even if I pass on today, I would die happily, because I would go assured that we laid a foundation for our children’s better future,” he said during a colorful celebration of the anniversary at Amahoro in-door stadium.
AERG was the first association to put in place a family setup which would become strong enough to comfort survivors and help them to believe that indeed, the future is bright despite a dark past.
An AERG family of 26 students elects a father and a mother who have responsibilities of looking after family members and receiving their enquiries and requests related to their social wellbeing on a daily basis.
Family heads report the requests to the association’s leadership at school level and national levels where solutions are sought.
While AERG started from scratch, today it has grown to become quite a big association with ambitious projects which work quite easily because members believe in the family spirit.
Currently, AERG has 140 cows on a 120-hectare farm in Nyagatare, banana plantation on 4 hectares while last season they harvested 19 tons of maize.
“The income from these projects help us solve some problems in families with main focus to the most vulnerable,” Ismael Bakina, AERG Executive Secretary said.
Bakina said that the association in partnership with Agrotech is modernizing the agriculture on 62 hectares in their Nyagatare farm, where they will be rotating crops such as maize, fruits and vegetables.
Francis Kaboneka, the Minister of Local Government commended AERG members for their resilience and urged them to work hard to fill the gap created by those who did not go to school.
“The government found solutions to most of your problems. Since you had an opportunity to go to school, you need to create jobs that would benefit your brothers and sisters who did not have that opportunity to study. The government is ready to support you,” he said.
Kaboneka also requested them to be exemplary to the community and work hard to the community.
AERG has 41,151 members, including; 21,398 girls and 19,753 boys. It has members across 43 higher learning institutions and 419 secondary schools.