Jean Claude, originally from Rwanda, moved to Belgium in 2006 to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics. With the move, came some adjustments. “It wasn’t easy, life was different in Belgium. It took some time to get used to the environment, but connecting with people helped me cope with the changes,” Jean Claude reflects on his journey.
Upon completing the course, he quickly started a thriving career as a railway technology specialist. When 17 years into his Belgian chapter, Jean Claude heard about an opportunity to travel back to Rwanda to share his skills, he didn’t hesitate to sign up for the programme.
Funded by the Belgian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, the Diaspora Engagement Project in the Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme, managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), offers skilled migrants a chance to visit their home in Rwanda to provide technical trainings at the eight Integrated Regional Polytechnic Colleges (IPRC) across the country.
"Wherever Rwandans go, they are exposed to new technologies and knowledge. There is nobody better to bring it back to Rwanda than us."
“In my journey, I’ve come to realize that the practical aspects of my work are different from what we study in school,” Jean Claude explains. “I love sharing insights gained throughout my career because you can’t find these lessons in textbooks. Railway technology is particularly important in Rwanda because it can make the transportation system fast and accessible for everyone. The local impact will be great, and it would create many employment opportunities.”
In Rwanda, Jean Claude trained lecturers and assistant lecturers at the IPRC in Huye to equip them with skills and knowledge that they can pass along to their students. Among them – Idelphonse.
“Railway technology was a completely new field for us,” he explained. “Bringing courses like this to IPRC Huye is a way to develop skills and create job opportunities, either here in Rwanda or abroad.”
“Rwandans living outside the country know more about the country and what we need here.”
Mike, another member of the Rwandan diaspora, is a construction specialist based in Geneva, Switzerland. Specializing in Building Information Modelling (BIM), he jumped at the opportunity to return to Rwanda and share his experience.
“I would say that it has been a dream come true. When you live abroad, you tend to see innovative work being done in your field,” Mike explains. “So, I asked myself, what I can do to bring this innovation to my home.”
Emmanuel, a Civil Engineering instructor who received training from Mike on the application of BIM software, is eager to share his newly gained knowledge with his students: “Equipping me with these skills will help me compete in the labor market, and deliver a work-based learning curriculum for my students. This will open doors for them for potential work at home or even abroad.”
Violette, another Assistant Lecturer at IPRC Kigali, emphasized this point: “When members of the diaspora return to share with us what they’ve learned abroad, it serves as a source of inspiration, motivating us to strengthen our capacity and copy what other progressive countries are doing.”
But really, it has been a two-way exchange of knowledge. “The locals had things to teach me about their respective fields and how they work in Rwanda,” Mike reflects.
While most diaspora residing in Europe are eager to travel back to Rwanda to conduct trainings, others are taking a more hands-on approach to development.
Olivier, a network specialist residing in Belgium, has returned three times to be a part of his country’s development – something he has always wanted to do.
“Working alongside fellow Rwandans is an effective way to contribute to our nation and establish the groundwork for a brighter future.”
During his first visit, he collaborated with lecturers at IPRC Gishari to upgrade their existing network. “We designed an internet cabling infrastructure to provide better internet access across the college and the surrounding area. The college has accepted and endorsed the project, which will be implemented soon.”
Now Oliver is working on a similar network design for the seven remaining IPRCs across Rwanda.
“When you dedicate yourself to the service of your country, you are, in essence, investing in your own future,” he said. And Jean Claude echoes this point: “The role of the diaspora is significant in Rwanda. Wherever Rwandans go, they are exposed to new technologies and knowledge. There is nobody better to bring it back to Rwanda than us.”