The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an abrupt change in routines and livelihoods all around the world, especially education forcing many students to stay out of school for more than a year.
In Rwanda, the education sector was hardest hit by the pandemic negatively impacting on the sector by 40% compared to other sectors.
Though the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 led to many school goers giving up totally with school (drooping out) due to family financial constraints, 13-year-old Eric Hakizimana used this as an opportunity to unleash a lifetime hobby which helped him to stay in school for a year.
Hakizimana is a Primary 5 student at Karugira School in Kigarama sector, Kicukiro district in Kigali city living with a single mom.
Hakizimana says that he ventured deeply in his gift of architecture during the 2020 strict lockdown in Rwanda using cardboards to make hand built miniature houses, bicycles, motorbikes and vehicles; paper flowers alongside paintings.
He uses plastic waste bottles, glue, dumped nails, and glasses to build these structures while at home which keeps him busy when not at school during COVID-19 restrictions.
Though it is not easy to collect and access the raw materials, Hakizimana is relieved by the fact that he can later sell the items off to passersby which earns him a few monies which he saves and pays school fees for himself and also buy scholastic materials like books and pencils.
“If I can get supported in this venture, I would love to advance my gift of art and architecture so that I can build real stuff in life to earn a living and develop my family and country,” Hakizimana said.
For his mother, Marie Grace Muhawenimana, this is a gift for her son she hopes will take him places and the signs of success have already started showing ever since Hakizimana ventured into developing his natural gift of art.
“He (Hakizimana) is very adventurous and this is already paying off for him. He has been able to buy himself a school bag (worth Rwf15, 000), shoes, books and pay his school fees for the whole year,” Muhawenimana said.
While it may look like Hakizimana can be distracted by his earnings at a young age, his mother says that he has learned to plan and set apart time for school and his venture.
Officials at the Ministry of Youth and Culture and Kicukiro district, where Hakizimana lives, say that such young gifts should be given support from all sides to ensure that they develop their talents further.
Ruzindana Rugasaguhunga, a Personal Advisor to the State Minister of Youth and Culture told Kigali Today that the ministry has a special program for support such gifted children and youth but also asked that parent play a lead role in giving them primary support.
With support, Hakizimana retains a high potential to become one of the next generation architects in Rwanda and a proof the Charles Darwin theory- that “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
Additional Contribution by Tarib Abdul