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Electrical engineering student plans to brighten Rwanda’s future

Submitted by Jamila Brown on April 7, 2011 – 3:15 pmOne Comment

It may be difficult for many students to comprehend the horror of the Rwandan genocide that occurred 17 years ago; it lasted approximately 90 days and resulted in the murder of an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, but for 28 UALR students the memory hits home.

Janviere Umuhoza, a junior electrical systems engineering major, is one of UALR’s 28 Rwandan scholars. Photo by Chelsey Brummett.

With the aid of the Presidential Scholarship, Janviere Umuhoza, a junior electrical systems engineering major, is one of the university’s 28 Rwandan students.

Like many Rwandans her age, Umuhoza was orphaned at a young age. Her father was murdered when she was just 5 years old as a result of the genocide, and her mother was left handicapped and later died in 2006.

“We have a lot of orphans in my country,” Umuhoza said. “The majority of people my age don’t have parents. Whenever I remember about it, I just can’t stand for it, I do cry. I feel down or depressed, but it’s something that happened it’s in the past—not right now.”

Despite its appalling past, the country is currently stable, according to Umhoza.

Those who were involved in the genocide, survivors and perpetrators alike are encouraged to give and seek forgiveness, she told The Forum.

“My neighbor killed our father. Whenever I saw him I was really terrified—my heart would be pounding. But when you forgive them you feel free— free from fear and grief. You understand that it was the evil acting in him and you just feel… free.

“So now there’s this whole generation with a positive, promising outlook. We feel like those before us obviously didn’t do a good job, so it’s up to us to make a better life for everyone,” Umuhoza said.

Growing up, Umuhoza said she was fortunate to have a big family. The sixth of seven children, her older siblings encouraged her to go to school while they worked to support the family.

“As the only one going to school, I felt like it’s just me. I felt a lot of responsibility so I was motivated to go to school, study hard, and in the end it paid off and got me this scholarship,” she said.

The Rwanda Presidential Scholars program is a highly competitive sponsorship that sends promising students to colleges all over the country and Umuhoza is one of only three women in the group of 28 Rwandan scholars at UALR.

With a near perfect GPA and an active member of both the Society for Women Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Umuhoza consistently works hard to make her family and country proud.

“We have different needs in Rwanda. Not everyone there has electricity. I want to change that. That’s my dream,” Umuhoza said.

After graduation she plans to continue her education, hoping to get a doctorate and bring her knowledge back home to help provide a brighter future for Rwanda.

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