I had the honour today of attending the first annual gathering of the young survivors which Survivors Fund (SURF) has sponsored, or is sponsoring, through university.
SURF is currently sponsoring 84 students at university, and a further 61 students have graduated since our support began in 2000. In total, there are 145 students that have had the opportunity to attend university through the support of SURF through funding from amongst others the Good Gifts Catalogue, The Tinsley Foundation, L.I.F.E. For Health and the students from Sandhurst Comprehensive and Robert Mays School.
It was an inspiring occasion, to hear directly from the students how important the sponsorship means to them. Even more remarkable was that the cost of the event was funded by the students themselves, and the announcement that from next year they will collectively sponsor a new student to begin on the programme.
It is on that announcement that what began as a sponsorship programme has evolved into a fellowship programme. I have no doubt that support will be extended to others in future, and the solidarity of this unique group of students will strengthen too.
Amongst the students that spoke at the event were Musoni Venust, Kagame Emmy and Gashumba Charles – with a prayer led by Bayisenge Innocent. I wanted to include the speech of Charles to give you a sense of the perspective shared by many of the students.
The challenge ahead for SURF is to sustain the programme. Next year we have not been able to accept any new students – to ensure we have the funding to support through to graduation all 84 students currently on the programme.
In a recent report on education in Rwanda – Rebuilding Rwanda – it was stressed that tertiary education delivers an even greater return than primary education – enabling graduates to support themselves through higher paid employment, generating tax revenue for the Government and enabling them to improve and extend access further to all sectors of education. For that reason, we are now also channelling resources to our new Education into Employment programme
However, as in the UK, the cost of university education is increasing and the funding for Government is decreasing. That is where SURF, and you our donors, have made such a critical difference in enabling all 145 students that we sponsor to have been given that opportunity.