PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center Ntarama

In 2008 the PATIZIA Children Foundation, in cooperation with the Gruenhelme e.V., built a rooming house for young people at the “Nelson Mandela Education Center for Apprentices (NMEC)”.

The new dormitory is directly adjacent to the vocational school in Ntarama, south of Rwanda’s capital Kigali. The ceremonial opening of the training centre was celebrated by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, which shows the high importance of the facility for the East African landlocked country.

“A roof over the head right next to the training centre and no excruciatingly long distances to school – that’s what we created here.”

Till Gröner
steward of the PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center Ntarama

A contribution to school operations in Rwanda

The majority of young people who are in training to become electricians, metalworkers, tailors, bricklayers or hairdressers have a roof over their heads in the dormitory. In 2019, 150 of a total of 168 students lived there.In this way, the PATRIZIA Foundation can make an important contribution to school operations in Rwanda. Last but not least, long journeys to school in Africa are a problem and can be the reason why young people do not receive any training.

Successful transfer of the training centre to local management

After successful years under the direction of Gruenhelme e.V., the training and facility operation was handed over to a local manager in 2012. The concept of the training centre was a success: Many teachers were themselves students at the PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center and today pass on the acquired knowledge to the next generation of students.

Read also Pierre’s tale of happiness , watch the video and the travel report by Jowita Fuchshofer.

After the school’s budget, which mainly consists of school fees, fell short due to the coronavirus pandemic, the PATRIZIA Foundation was able to offer immediate help through the Corona Fund Education Healthcare: Money required to pay the staff’s salaries and to buy material for the new hygiene concept of the school.

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Watch the video for more information about the PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center Ntarama

Tales of happiness from Rwanda

Pierre’s tale of happiness

Pierre has already had many bosses, after his training as an engineer. He gained experience in several construction companies before he started his own business. Now he builds houses for his fellow countrymen with his own company – and even earns well. “None of this would have been possible without the opportunity to live next door to school at the PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center,” he says.

“Without the PATRIZIA Foundation I would not have made it.”

Pierre was a student at the Nelson Mandela Training Centre until he successfully completed his studies as a civil engineer. 

“Fortunately I got a place in the PATRIZIA Foundation dormitory,” he says and beams. “Otherwise I don’t know what would have become of me, because the way to school was just too far away.” Now Pierre has achieved what he never thought possible: He has a family, lives in his own house and can send his children to school. “And I even pay taxes,” he adds. “That makes me proud, because it’s good for our country.” And because he knows how important education is, the entrepreneur now supports children himself so that they can go to school and have a future.

With his construction company Pierre does not build villas for the rich, but simple but beautiful houses for normal families. He is particularly happy that he is also supporting the local economy and making an important contribution to the further economic upswing of his country.

Jowita Fuchshofer reports on her foundation visit to Rwanda

“A school is never just a school, but so much more”

In 2008, we built a dormitory for students at the PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center in Ntarama in Rwanda. It stands directly adjacent to the Nelson Mandela Educational Centre, where teenagers and young adults can complete a three-year vocational training programme. After our last visit in 2016, it was time for the PATRIZIA Foundation to meet again in person with our local contacts. Senior manager of donor relations at 

the PATRIZIA Foundation, Jowita Fuchshofer, took on this important task and describes her impressions.  The vocational school in Ntarama (pronounced: Naarama) in Rwanda is very nice – that was my first impression on site. Prior to my trip I had already been in contact with the headmaster, Théophile Rutabana. On our arrival in Ntarama, he gave me and my companions a guided tour of the school. His colleague, Félix Mubumbyi, director of training and studies, accompanied us.

The school grounds are home to seven classroom buildings, two dormitories and two workshops, and they were larger than I had expected, well-kept and green. 168 students are currently undergoing training here to become bricklayers, 

electricians, metalworkers, designers, hairdressers or tailors; 150 of them are boarders and live in dormitories, one of which was built by the foundation. To attend this secondary school, you must have attended a primary school, completed three years of training and passed the final examination at a lower secondary school. Only afterwards are students qualified to train at the PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center in Ntarama.

The centre runs a day school and offers short courses spanning two terms. Training ends with a state examination, which entitles students to go on to university.

Strong practical focus during training

The PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center in Ntarama is a state school and its students are selected centrally. The school fees are 74 dollars per year. The school has to manage its finances carefully because it hardly receives any support from district authorities. It is very popular with students because of its special educational profile, with close connections between the school and businesses and a strong emphasis on practical training. At the school, students learn professions offering them excellent prospects for the future. This includes a one-month work placement per year during the three-year training period. The idea of this is to apply and test their knowledge in a business setting. After graduation, a large number of students set up their own businesses.

First impressions of the location

Ntarama is about an hour’s drive from the international airport in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Kigali seemed tidy and well looked after. In some areas it looked European to me. The young people at the vocational school looked impeccable in their clean white shirts.

I noticed how proud they were to be students here. Headmaster Rutabana was also full of pride as he showed us around the extensive school grounds.

It rained a lot during our time there, so we had to use every opportunity we could to take photos and film outdoors.

The current status and the needs 

The school grounds and boarding school are in good condition. In our conversations with the headmaster and his colleagues, it quickly became clear what the school’s most urgent needs are.

Tools and building materials like cement and bricks are very expensive in Rwanda, but they are needed for the students’ practical work and expanding the school.

If they had new materials, the trainees could extend the school and workshop rooms themselves.

As in many other places in Rwanda, most of the students had mobiles. This provided us with an excellent starting point for conversations; everyone seems to be interested in modern technology. Some of the students showed us around the workshops where they receive training. Our visit coincided with exams so the students only had limited time for us. Headmaster Rutabana and Peter, our guide, took over.

One former student is now in the construction business

Peter also graduated from the PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center in Ntarama –during the early days. He found time to accompany us during our visit. He is a construction worker at a former schoolmate’s company. The former students use an alumni network to stay in touch and regularly provide each other with work. What a great enrichment to the community! In addition to meeting Peter, we also met two other alumni: Pierre, a successful businessman, and Brigitte, who now works as a teacher at our centre.

Peter took very good care of us. He was very helpful and did everything he could to support us. For lunch he took us to a restaurant normally only dined at by locals. For just one dollar, we got a plate piled high with local delicacies. We were thrilled.

Peter is a survivor of the genocide against ethnic Tutsis in 1994. Memories of the struggle between ethnic Hutu and Tutsi groups are still very present in the country. The government is making a major effort to foster reconciliation.

Among other things, it has initiated a project and founded a village for Hutus and Tutsis to live together successfully in peace.

Umuganda – a social support programme initiated by the state

On the last Saturday of every month there is a social day called Umuganda. All citizens, associations, church communities and social groups take part in the day. From eight to twelve o’clock in the morning they do something for the common good, from construction work to simple tasks like sweeping the streets together. People meet in the street, sing, perform local dances and start the day together. The social day was set up by the government after the 1994 genocide to reunite society and promote social interaction.

There is also a very strong sense of togetherness at the PATRIZIA Vocational Training Center. The apprentices are not just schoolmates, but friends who enjoy spending time together. They support each other and, whenever possible, provide each other with work after graduation – as was the case with Peter.

So the school is not just a school, but so much more. It reflects the very values that we also strive for as a foundation – providing access to education, promoting learning in the community and developing social networks. These values are fundamental to the future of the young people in Ntarama – as in all other regions of the world.