For the past thirteen years, Dassault Sytemes has been helping to create a brighter future for the youth of Rwanda. What started with a visit by Rwanda’s president, H.E. Paul Kagame, to DS SOLIDWORKS headquarters in 2006, has grown over the years into a program to donate SOLIDWORKS software for the education of Rwandan students, to provide volunteer curriculum development and training for both teachers and students, as well as to donate workstations for students at several high schools and colleges.
In 2009, President Kagame introduced Rwanda’s Nine Year Basic Education Program (9YBE), which offers six years of primary and three years of secondary education to all children. Before the program was introduced, many children could not access education. Today, 97 percent of Rwandan boys and 98 percent of Rwandan girls are enrolled in primary school, which are the highest enrollment rates in Central Africa. One of the top priorities of the Rwandan government is education and the establishment of continuing education with Technical and Vocational Training Schools.
Three years ago, in May 2016, Dassault Systemes together with other organizations including MIT, the Rwandan Ministry of Education, the Rwandan Private Sector Federation, and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), helped to launch Central Africa’s first FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory) to provide Rwandans a space to develop their ideas and manufacture those products. The FabLab has several computers with SOLIDWORKS installed, as well as facilities to do 3D printing, precision CNC milling, circuit production, laser printing, and vinyl cutting. While we were in Rwanda, the FabLab celebrated its three-year anniversary, and we were honored to be there for the celebration.
Since 2014, we have been teaching high school and university students directly, with a team of SOLIDWORKS employees coming to Rwanda to teach students in five schools over five days, each year. Rwanda is called the country of 1000 hills, and that became clear while we were there. As we drove around the countryside, we drove up and down hills constantly, and the views were amazing. Since there are so many hills, we saw a lot of “taxi” motorcycles which carried people up the hills and then drove down to get their next fare. Those communal helmets were a bit iffy though.
Rwanda is made up of five provinces: Kigali (which is central), Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western. We visited schools in four of the five provinces, trying to spread our attention equally.
Mark Neil, DS Americas General Council, grew up in DR Congo, on the border with Rwanda, and he and his family have a home in Kigali, Rwanda. He speaks Swahili fluently, and was an excellent host for us, sharing his friends and family with us for our adventure there. Mike Puckett, Senior Manager for Worldwide Certification for SOLIDWORKS, has been the Rwanda Team Leader for the past five years, and he arranged all the school appointments and introduced us to the students. Suchit Jain, Dassault Systemes VP of Strategy & Business Development, also joined us in Rwanda for a conference and to introduce the students to FIRST Robotics. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international youth organization promoting STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics).
This year, I am one of the lucky people who got to travel to Rwanda to make a difference. I taught SOLIDWORKS and Simulation with Rebekah Hanks, who is part of the Training Department. My name is Jenn Doerksen and I am a Senior Solutions Consultant with the Professional Solutions Channel, and have a degree in Mechanical Engineering. This is my first trip to Rwanda, so I wanted to share my experience here. I’ve written a series of blogs outlining my journey, and I hope you enjoy them.
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.