My name is Gabriel Karerangabo, a youth researcher for the Voices of Refugee Youth research study in Rwanda. My experiences speak as an example of the way in which education can support refugees to learn, lead and impact communities in a positive way for change. In 2016, I entered higher education, before joining the Voices of Refugee Youth study in 2019 as a youth researcher. This role has increased my desire to advocate for youth, train them and increase their opportunities to grow. This blog is a personal account of my experience in education and employment, and the ways in which the Voice of Refugee Youth project has impacted on this.
In 2016, I enrolled in the University of Tourism, Technology and Business studies for a course in Business Information Technology. As a refugee, the learning conditions were challenging because, although my sponsor paid for my tuition and accommodation fees, I had to support myself for other school and life requirements. Through this experience, I learned to identify a problem and tackle it in order to solve it. I wasn’t the only refugee at this institution; there were other refugees from different locations across Rwanda. I took on a leadership role amongst my peers, and I have sought to advise them to find solutions by themselves and not wait for other people or organisations to bring change for them. My speech for them, as well as myself, was always: you are the change you wish to become.
Despite facing challenges during my educational journey, I believe that education is nonetheless the way forward towards prosperity. In 2019, I graduated from this university and became a secondary school teacher in Rwanda. It was an excellent opportunity where I thought I found stability in life. However, the salary I was getting was not sufficient. I received 150 USD monthly, and while waiting for the salary for the next month, my bank was empty. In Rwanda, houses to rent are costly.
In 2019, I saw the recruitment call to be a youth researcher for the Voices of Refugee Youth research study, launched by Jigsaw and REUK. I was inspired and impressed by Jigsaw and REUK’s mission and vision for education in emergencies, enabling us to be a voice for refugee youth in Rwanda and Pakistan. I took it upon myself to apply to become a youth researcher. Fortunately, I was selected and received the job. Now I am able to be a voice for refugee youth as I wished. So far, I have received training along with the other youth researchers, gained research skills, experienced working in a team, and finally, I have increased my passion for research in refugee education. I have really enjoyed trying to advance my research skills while thinking about tackling the educational problems which refugees face worldwide. I believe that, through research, the key issues can be identified and lasting solutions can be found. As a result, I applied to study for a Master of Science degree, in order to become an African Researcher. I was selected and enrolled in the master’s degree in 2020; I have now completed it in 2022, and I am an African researcher in education-based on technology.
Meanwhile, because I am passionate about refugee youth education, I have applied to be a student at African Leadership University to study Education in the Global Challenges faculty; growing in leadership will also help me to achieve my objective. I will complete my studies in 2022.
Being a youth researcher also opened my mind and equipped me with the skills I needed to start ‘Save the Youth Vision Association’ which works with youth in Mahama refugee camp. The initiative aims to help young refugees in developing their innate talents and potential, so that they can participate in providing more opportunities for refugees in the future. Working with my team, we have assisted students who are completing secondary school and want to go to university, by providing guidance for their application. Some have been awarded scholarships, ready to start their university studies. Now I have hope for the future, because working as a youth researcher for the Voices of Refugee Youth research study has helped me to gain many skills and the confidence to stand firm to find solutions for global challenges for refugees.
In conclusion, working as a youth researcher has had many advantages and provided me with many skills. It has opened my mind to thinking outside the box about my future and enabled me to find solutions to the challenges I was facing. I acquired all of these skills during my experience as a youth researcher, in addition to the knowledge I gained from my university degrees. I have therefore developed research skills to advance my mission towards improving education opportunities for refugees. I have grown to love the research field, and now I am not only a youth researcher, but I am an African Researcher.