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  • Writer's pictureOlivier Bushayija

The Benefit of Alumni Networks

In May 2017, AKA partnered with Future First Global to design a training for teachers in 45 AKA project schools in Kigali and Southern Province to implement alumni networks. Based on the immense success of the existing alumni networks, AKA and FFG are looking to scale up the project and build upon its foundations. Jordan and Rose shared their stories as evidence of the extensive benefits alumni networks provide to students, teachers and the alumni themselves.

Meet Jordan Ganzo.

Jordan is 27 years old and one of the four alumni employed by Kigali Leading TVET School. For the past year, he has been an instructor, teaching English, Entrepreneurship and the Akazi Kanoze Access curriculum. He frequently advises current students on the job search process, reads their resumes and counsels them on employee best practices. Jordan fervently expressed the increase in confidence that manifested not only in himself as an alumni mentor, but in the students he was assisting. “When the school is trusting you, you feel powerful and capable. I feel that I have knowledge worth sharing. Students feel important too because they are able to learn from people who are around their age understand what they’ve been through.”

Jordan reflects on the multifaceted nature of alumni support and the many areas that benefit from this service. “Many alumni have jobs in the hotel or tourism industries or have started their own businesses. It is easier for students to find internships and jobs if we connect them with the places where we work or tell them about other opportunities we know.” This is instrumental in facilitating the job search for young students who otherwise do not have much experience or are intimidated by the job search process. Because alumni connect students with known employers, they are also able to negotiate the cost of caution fees and related expenses. Jordan said that this aspect has been critical in securing successful internships. “Some students want to start their own businesses; as alumni we help them with the business plan or give them advice on how to get started.” All in all, Jordan demonstrates that the intrinsic value of alumni networks cannot be underestimated.

Though the alumni networks are focused on helping students and alumni build their networks and have access to professional support, teachers reflect on the benefits they’ve yielded. Rose de Lima, a teacher at Kigali Leading TVET School, demonstrated the extent to which schoolteachers and administration learn valuable lessons from this program. Rosa spoke of her increased knowledge of real world practices and functions, which allow her to be a more effective teacher. Without input from alumni on their experiences in the workforce and the obstacles they face, Rosa’s scope is limited. “I’m only informed of what I see in my day to day life and what I witness in the classroom or hear from my supervisors. The alumni show me what’s happening outside of this bubble and I can adapt my lessons accordingly.”

Rosa believes the alumni networks are crucial in providing youth with continued sustainability. “It is so easy for the school to forget about students after they graduate. Alumni networks help prevent this.” Kigali Leading has had an easier job of recording student performances and connecting youth with job listings since they are frequently in touch with alumni mentors.

Rosa also expressed the significant demand present from teachers for more trainings and facilitated support to better understand the AKA curriculum and importance of alumni networks. “Kigali’s school teachers are not aware of the impact alumni networks can haveor how applicable they are both in and out of school.” She echoed that the first step of future programming should be targeted trainings for teachers, given their critical role in students’ professional development. Rosa is optimistic about the expansion of alumni networks and wishes to see every school in Rwanda equipped with this program. She views the networks as harbingers of successful youth and looks forward to seeing where the program will be in the future.

Rose shares how her teaching experience has benefitted from alumni networks.

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