Being in the classroom as a university student means a lot to me. When I am in the classroom, I think about the prayers I prayed before. I can remember times I prayed for being able to be in a classroom as a university student. Being in a classroom is the answer of my prayers.
I always remember the year 2011. By the end of that year, I finished my high school from a governmental secondary school, where I studied computer electronics and got very good marks. In Rwanda, any student who gets the conventional good marks gets a governmental scholarship in one of Rwandan universities. Unfortunately, I was a refugee, and could not be accepted to the university. They require a lot of documents. As a refugee, there was no way I could get those documents because they are only issued to citizens of Rwanda, and they rejected me as a result. Before Kepler, there was no way for a refugee to have access to higher education in government universities, and there was no way to be issued travel documents.
However, I desperately wanted to have access to higher education. I knew it was the only way that will help me to escape from the refugee camp life. I pushed and studied for one year, before I was rejected once they found out that I could not fulfill citizenship criteria. So, I came back to my parents, and I was sad and hopeless, until I found Kepler and GEM in 2017. Here, my refugee status does not matter.
There are many things I enjoy about being in classroom. I like when we start a class knowing what we are going to learn and what we will accomplish. Our course facilitators give us pre-class materials before coming to class so that we can be familiar with the course. The course facilitators make classes wonderful. They make the classroom a fun environment with icebreakers. Our course facilitators speak less than students do. Students present about important points related to the courses while the rest of students write down some feedback and comments about the presentations. Providing feedback and comments helps us know the areas of improvement and areas of strength.
We also play role-plays that include what we covered in a previous course. It means that we have fun while learning. For example, there is a class called Reproductive Health where we learned a lot related to gender. I really enjoyed the class and the role-plays. So, I asked one of my academic authorities, Stella Bonard Ibango, if we can play such play-roles on the graduation date in May, and he said yes. By playing such a role-play on a graduation day, we will be able to deliver a message that contains knowledge and skills that our community needs to a bigger audience. I am positive that as refugee students, we will be able to contribute to our community growth. My community needs to learn more about gender because men think they are superior and always right and think that women are created to serve men. In this way, I love more being in the classroom because it is a place where I benefit from and change my behaviors and also my community’s. My life has changed remarkably because of attending these classes.
I also learned public speaking skills, and can now stand in front of people and express myself as long as I have something important to say. Not only public speaking, but also problem solving skills. I am able to identify the problem and brainstorm potential solutions that may help me to come up with the best solution. Another class that changed my life is technology class. Because of technology class, I am able to use google documents, Microsoft Office, and can type over 50 words per minute. In the future, I am assured that these skills that I learned from Kepler will help me to work effectively in my work environment; they are even helping me along my academic way and will also help me to help any others that will be in need of them. Another course that changed my life is a part of Associate of Arts projects. Because of those projects I worked on, I know more things than before. I can now advocate for myself and for others. I can now use a budget at home to balance my expenses. We each receive a small monthly stipend from UNHCR as a support for our living. I also earn some incentives from my job as a teacher. Before coming to Kepler, I used to think that using a budget is only meant for people who earn a lot of money that is sufficient for their living. However, learning to use a budget was very helpful, and has taught me the importance of spending money wisely. Budgeting helps me reach my goals. Budgeting is a plan that helps me prioritize my spending. With a budget, I can focus my money on the things that are most important to me.
I learned professionalism in a class called Professional Competence, where I learned time management skills, and I am now able to manage my tasks better. I am a student, a mother, and a teacher. I was not going to make it if I am not organized and determined. To manage this, I created a schedule to balance all my responsibilities. The truth is, I need to study in order to improve my situation. I also need to work in order to support my family and take care of my child. Every responsibility is important and needs my attention. A schedule was the best solution.
I also love being a GEM student because of my fellow refugee students who earned opportunities from GEM. My younger sister, Aimee Tuyirate, joined Kepler in 2016, and she is looking forward to graduating this May. She recently was in Jordan attending a workshop with MIT React, where she had started learning coding and now she is working toward her Master’s degree. I also want to recognize another fellow student, Oscar Bahati. He went to the U.S. 2 months ago. He was issued a Master’s scholarship by the president of SNHU, Paul LeBlanc, when he visited Kepler Kiziba in 2015. I’ll never forget my old classmate, Sadiki Bamperineza, who joined Kepler in 2015. He is now a B.A. graduate and is pursuing his Master’s. He has a very nice job with Kepler where he serves as refugee guidance counselor.
Though I still have a way to go with my academics, I consider myself a lucky woman because of Kepler and GEM. I wish there was a word that means more than “thank you” to show Kepler and GEM all my gratitude.
This is a miracle in our refugee world. My classmates and I are glad GEM is here to help us realize our dreams. We feel alive, unforgotten, and loved.