On Thursday May 30, a delegation of Project Rwanda students and alumni from Carnegie Mellon’s Africa, Qatar, and Pittsburgh campuses were hosted by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda at his office, Urugwiro Village, in Kigali, Rwanda. Also in attendance were Jonathan Cagan, interim dean of the College of Engineering, and Vijayakumar Bhagavatula, director of CMU-Africa, as well as the Minister of ICT and Innovation, Hon. Paula Ingabire and the Minister of Education, Hon. Eugene Mutimura.
Bhagavatula thanked President Kagame for bringing the three campuses together and meeting with them. He remarked on the growth of the CMU-Africa program, with 128 students from 15 African countries and 145 alumni. Of these alumni, 75% work in Africa; 15 are pursuing Ph.D. programs at top universities around the world. The class of 2019, which graduated on June 2, brings the number of CMU-Africa alumni to 196.
Project Rwanda is a student-led community service initiative focused on enhancing technology and education in Rwanda and promoting cross-cultural exchange between CMU’s campuses. This is the seventh cohort to visit Rwanda since the initiative’s inception in 2010. So far, Project Rwanda participants have hosted 20 technology literacy and essential IT skills workshops for school teachers and trained more than 140 Rwandan students in fourth and fifth grades in programming, keyboarding, and creative arts.
The Project Rwanda team this year was comprised of seven students from the Pittsburgh campus, accompanied by Shernell Smith, associate director for graduate student engagement and support at CMU’s Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion. Seven additional students joined from the CMU Qatar campus and four from CMU-Africa.
President Kagame expressed appreciation for the CMU-Africa program serving the continent from Kigali. “The significance of partnership is bigger than Rwanda,” he noted. “It goes beyond to serve the continent of Africa.” He mentioned that the partnership between the Government of Rwanda and Carnegie Mellon University is benefiting greatly from the support from other funding partners such as the Mastercard Foundation and the Smart Africa initiative who have come together to make world-class education more accessible to the brightest in Africa.
Was a pleasure meeting the students from the Pittsburgh, Qatar, and Kigali (serving Africa) campuses of @CarnegieMellon University. This partnership has shown that education becomes truly meaningful when its benefits expand to those around us pic.twitter.com/Ft9wqFIlJs— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) May 30, 2019
During their discussion with President Kagame, the students talked about their work in Kigali and how they would like to collaborate with the Ministry of Education to further their impact and make it more sustainable. The Minister of Education, Eugene Mutimura, reiterated that there is already a conducive environment and numerous opportunities for the Project Rwanda students to work with the ministry on their initiatives.
President Kagame noted that the work being done by Project Rwanda was commendable. “There is no better way for development than through the development of skills and knowledge,” he said.
CMU-Africa students and alumni discussed fostering engagement with Rwandan government agencies through different avenues such as internships, practicums, and research with CMU-Africa. Both the president and the minister of ICT innovation noted the opportunity to connect government agencies with CMU-Africa’s skilled graduate students.
Rahma Mohamed, and MSIT student from Somalia, said the opportunity to study at CMU-Africa has helped her appreciate Rwanda’s commitment to building a knowledge-based economy by not only investing in the knowledge and skills of Rwandans, but also that of Africans from across the continent.