Nyamirambo again

May 16 2013

At first glance, little has changed in Kigali city centre since our last visit. On closer inspection, the shiny new buildings start to stick out where previously there had been construction sites. The National Bank of Rwanda has published figures claiming a 7% growth rate in the economy. Albeit from a small base this is steady growth not to be sniffed at. It is not for nothing that Rwanda is becoming known as the jewel of Africa.

For all the shining glass and steel in the city centre, it doesn't take much effort to find another economy which grinds along at an altogether more sedate pace. Today is a return to the Nyamirambo hills and for all that finding poverty here is easy, in thirty something degrees, scaling slopes that would make a goat feel at home, the effort is more than enough to break sweat. Today's objective is to visit a couple of schools and pay for after-class coaching for two of our children. One of them, Moussa, is not only top of his class, he is top of all eight classes in his year. Both children will sit their national exams later this year and we are all keen that they should have the best chance they can of a place at secondary school. We also have some gifts of t-shirts for the group.

Once we are off the main road and making a steady pace along the tracks around the hillside, the only shiny glass is the empty beer bottles which lie in crates outside local bars waiting to be collected. The buildings here are rudimentary and if not dilapidated will have a steel roof and an outside toilet. Kitchens, where an open charcoal fire is used to prepare meals, often sit separate to the main house.

Besides paying school fees we are also heading to Mama Elija's house. Having heard the other day that she had been ill and as a result lost her market stall, we have decided to help her get re-established again. There is no such thing as privacy in Rwanda and as we explain to her what we are doing, a group of neighbouring children hang around supervising proceedings.

We have seen it all today. ATM machines at the Banque de Kigali's smart city centre headquarters and barefoot children with clothes that they live in. This is Rwanda and there is no middle ground between those who participate in an economy growing at 7% and the vast majority who have nothing and little prospect of anything better.