All countries around the world are going through an unprecedented health crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has also affected Rwanda and its inhabitants.
Indeed, following the country’s first confirmed case in March, the government of Rwanda issued a statement stipulating that schools, among other large gatherings, were temporarily suspended for an initial period of two weeks. But, during these two weeks, the cases of people infected with Covid-19 continued to increase, and thus the government of Rwanda has had to take drastic measures to better cope with the spread of the pandemic.
So, several activities across the country had to close with the obligation for people to stay in their households. An exception has been given to food shops as well as of course to medical, water and electricity service providers. The authorities had to close all borders of the country and only basic necessities were allowed to enter the country.
In our region of Huye District, like the rest of the country, there are many primary schools, boarding schools, and a good number of universities. All of these schools had to put the key in the door, and all the pupils and students had to pack up and go home in order not to endanger the school community with contagion.
The closure of schools has gone hand in hand with that of places of worship, sports and recreation. It was strictly forbidden to do sports activities outside the limits of a household.
Also, among the measures taken to fight effectively against the spread of covid-19, it was also decided that the public transport would stop working. The reason was that the people usually transported were assigned to stay in their households, so there was no reason to let the buses go back to the streets.
With the lockdown, it was quite obvious that people would have to suffer from shortages in one way or another. These shortages were largely related to the lack of financial resources because people were no longer going about their income-generating activities.
Regarding our community of Burundian refugees, these shortages were more noticeable, especially for young people. Most of the young people in our community, at least for those who are not students, mostly live off their jobs in bars, restaurants and hairdressers. As this kind of activity remains closed, there have been a good number of young refugees who have suffered extremely from the lockdown. They could no longer afford to eat or pay the rent.
However, since July, there has been a reduction in anti-Covid-19 measures. The authorities have started to partially ease these measures for places of worship and for certain sports activities and so some activities have been reopened.
With regard to the education of refugees, Burundian refugee students have been able to return to the Huye Community Center established by UNHCR especially for refugees.
This center has an internet connection with Wi-Fi and UNHCR gives students and pupils with laptops (students and pupils bring their own laptops for those who have them) access to online courses with an opportunity to gain certificates. This is a great alternative solution for students who no longer have access to their usual educational institutions.
All those months that we have spent in our households have also had a side-effect that one could describe as positive. It gave us enough time to learn a lot of things that we normally wouldn’t be able to do. For example, through the “Zoom” application, we learned how to hold an online meeting with several colleagues at home.
To conclude we can say that this period of pandemic was hard for refugee youth who have lost their jobs and access to education. We tried to keep as busy as possible, like learning new things and taking classes online – things we may have not thought about in a normal period. With the reopening of some activities and us going back to our occupations this will help a lot to overcome the challenges we faced during the lockdowns.