Seraphine Habimana was best student of the School of Media from DIT as she completed her Master's Degree in International Journalism.
“I’m very glad that I made this happen. It also adds up to the pride of my country, Rwanda. It wasn’t easy as I had to work very hard, days and nights ... and of course pray quite often ... I would say that hard work and determination are the keys elements to such success”.
As a Genocide survivor, finishing masters is something that I always dreamt about, after all hardships I went through after surviving Rwandan Genocide.
Although life after the Genocide was very hard, getting school fees, material and transport too was never easy. ‘I used to think about how the day at the end of the semester would look, how I would escape but I couldn’t find any answer.
So I avoided thinking about it, and just concentrated on my studies as I thought that the best day in my life would be when I will have finished secondary school at least.’
So now completing Masters is like a dream come true.
Before genocide we could not find schools in the area because we’re Tutsi, and in fact we hated going to school, fearing that when we were studying our teachers would put us in front of the class, describing the body parts of Tutsi.
This sort of treatment was designed to cause us to feel rejected from society.
My siblings and I always cried and were dismayed and lonely when were at school, which is why we all preferred to stay at home. Indeed, we all feared that one day we would find our mother dead as she was always beaten up by our neighbors because she’s Tutsi.
My educational journey
In Rwanda, before getting to secondary school everyone has to sit the national examination, and the government then allocates pupils to boarding schools depending on their preferences and marks.
When I passed the national exam after primary school, I was sent to Gikongoro (now Nyamagabe district) to attend Groupe Scolaire Benjamin Tito Robert de Rwamiko in South.
Whilst at primary school, I lived with my younger brother and older sister, and we all lived on monthly food given to us by the priest.
But when I went to start secondary school I went with my older sister, who had been delayed after finishing primary school looking for financial support to attend secondary school from the Genocide survivor fund.
By now the year is 2000, when I was 12 years old. My younger brother, who was in the second year of primary school at this time, could not stay where he was alone so he was unfortunately forced to drop out of school to look for work as a maid.
At this time, he was paid RWF 1000 per month( 1 euro), and he gave this each month to someone who could give it to us at the school visiting day, and this arrangement lasted a couple of years. In 2002, by which time I was 14, my elder (oldest) sister finished secondary school, got married and moved to Ruhengeri in North.
The result of this was that my sister and I effectively became homeless in that we did not have anywhere to live during the school holidays. So we joined our other older who worked in an old man’s house in Taba, Huye district in the Southern Province of Rwanda.
My two sisters quickly fell pregnant despite their young ages (16 and 18) when trying to help me with my school needs.
I could not even find the money to pay to get to Ruhengeri, where I could have joined my oldest sister.
Sometimes I had to see if any well-wisher could help me get to school, which was in the far upcountry where the roads were often impassable and transportation was very difficult.
When I finished one semester, I thought that I could not finish the second one, there were many temptations that could result to a dropout of school earlier but I never gave up despite the all challenges and hardships.
When I finished my ordinary level schooling I needed lots of things to go to Cyangugu where I was due to continue senior 4 after passing the ordinary examination. But I had nowhere to start.
Luckily I got some money for transport to get to school. I arrived at school empty handed.
The school required everyone to bring a mattress and bed covers, but I didn’t have any and it was not easy to convince the headmaster that I could not afford them.
Arriving at school, I shared a bed with someone I met when I arrived. She helped me with some basic materials and I started with one notebook, though we were supposed to have 15 notebooks each. It was a very bad start to senior 4 and I felt hopeless.
I cannot explain how I got soap or sorted out female needs through the semester but I made it through it all.
Grace has a way of smiling upon those who dare behold it. Like in all boarding schools in Rwanda, there are some students known as photographers.
At secondary we had one, but the boarding rules did not allow him to take pictures in the female dormitory. And most of his clients were girls rather than boys. There, girls like photos more than boys.
One Saturday the photographer tried to take pictures inside the female dormitory, but a member of staff would not allow him to enter. I happened to be there and I said that I could take the pictures of the students if he showed me how the camera worked.
So the photographer showed me how to take pictures on his camera (Yashica).
The pictures emerged after about a week, and they were not too bad, so he told me that I could keep helping him with that work. He gave me RWF 200 just as an appreciation.
So every Saturday I helped him like that, and he gave me some money to go to the canteen to drink milk, and I kept some money for transport. Because in the holidays I had to go to Ruhengeri, and the transport was over RWF 5,000( 8 euro).
There was only one bus which came from Kigali to Kamembe, collecting all the students in Cyangugu who went to Kigali.
Sometimes it reached us full. Normally, I remained at school for some time until there was a bus with space, or else I passed through Kivu Lake to Gisenyi and then on to Ruhengeri.
That’s how I survived during my secondary school.
I have always strived to be successful and competent in everything I do, which is why after secondary school I finished my undergraduate studies at the National University of Rwanda in Butare with the highest grade in my class.
Now the School of Media of DIT had chosen me as the winner of 2015 Special Award winner (Dr. Michael Foley Award) on MA journalism.
I am now a Master’s Degree holder in International Journalism and I have acquired a broad range of skills during one-year stay, as the college has very experienced and highly versatile lecturers and balances practical, theoretical, technical and analytical elements.
The combination of such elements will positively impact and improve my career as a journalist in Rwanda and I will actually share the acquired skills with my fellow Rwandan journalists.
I do not have enough words to thank everyone who have helped me to get here and continue to help while I was here. I hope to welcome all of you in our thousands hills, Rwanda.