Today, Friday, marked the beginning of a new collaboration. In Jean’s care, we visited the Kimisagara Youth Centre, located in a poorer part of Kigali. The Centre houses a wide range of leisure, education and employment-oriented activities designed to motivate and build capacity in young people who might otherwise ‘fall through the cracks’. It is apparently a model for youth development in Rwanda.
Among a range of innovative approaches, one of the most intriguing is its football (soccer) program. As well as embracing traditional soccer as a tool for youth development, the Centre offers ‘street football’, that can be played anywhere with ‘soft’ balls (made from recycled clothing or plastics and twine), with boys and girls competing together, no referee (so the young people have to resolve their own disputes) but one key rule – only girls are allowed to score goals! Interestingly, FIFA, the international soccer governing body, is the Centre’s main sponsor.
More recently, music, dance and drama have been added to the Centre’s programming – which is where we come in. The Centre boasts a troupe of young peer educators that use theatre as its medium. The actors put together interactive skits dealing with contemporary issues (HIV/AIDS; drug abuse; genocide ideology etc.) that they take to schools. Sound familiar?
This afternoon, we accompanied them on the long drive to Huye (formerly Butare) in the south, where we saw them play to a huge school audience in the open-air. As ever, we were very graciously treated as honored guests. The school students performed their songs and dances before Centre’s actors took the ‘stage’. Their piece was very didactic and naturalistic (all the actors used hand-held microphones as they argued about a range of issues, in role as school students) but the cast was very confident, clearly talented, and much appreciated by the very wide age-range of audience members. Interestingly, no one seemed to have a problem exposing 4 and 5 year-olds to ‘adult’ issues, including scenes on sex and STDs – an attitude that echoes the sentiment of many roadside signs: “Talk to your children about sex”!
The Kimisagara actors are apparently eager to expand their repertoire of skills and will be working with all of us, including some volunteer KIE students, for several days in our final week. It is exciting to discover this thoughtful arts initiative. There will certainly be plenty to explore together.
But now, as we sign off, we turn our attention and anticipation to the arrival of our own students, who are due in relays tomorrow. We will report on the arrivals but from thereon in, the blog will essentially offer accounts of their experiences. Stay tuned.
Chris and Helen