The odds were stacked against Esther growing up, but she overcame them and is now using her Master’s degree from Manchester to bring positive change to her home country of Rwanda.'Surviving the genocide left me indebted to do something about it.' Read Esther's story Click To Tweet Esther is using her Manchester education to help her home country rebuild following the 1994 Genocide Click To Tweet Thanks to donations, Esther was able to receive a world-class education at Manchester and use it to tackle urbanisation in Rwanda Click To Tweet
“Born during the war, and just before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was happening in Rwanda, my childhood was not easy.”
Esther Ndacyayisenga grew up during the brutal genocide in Rwanda, which resulted in the death of approximately 1,000,000 Tutsis and had lasting, profound effects on the country.
“I grew up in a country where there was no hope for tomorrow,” Esther says. “Everything was messed up; security was not assured, society was divided, there was extreme poverty and lots of negative anger amongst people.”
“I have watched my country go through a significant rebuilding phase in the years since the genocide. We have made remarkable progress. There is still a long way to go but I am very optimistic about the future.”
‘Surviving the genocide left me indebted to do something about it’
Despite living in a country that was experiencing such seismic and traumatic events, Esther was able to access education and, thanks to good grades, earned a government scholarship that supported her through high school and undergraduate university studies.
It was her good grades throughout her education that resulted in Esther being awarded an Equity & Merit Scholarship at Manchester, which meant that she could study a Master’s in Global Urban Development and Planning here in Manchester.
“Surviving the genocide left me indebted to do something about it, and that is what fostered my interest in the built environment.”
Rwanda is among the countries with the highest expected rates of urbanisation in Africa and, with that, comes the necessity for highly skilled people to tackle this challenge.
“Currently, there is a dearth of local city planners, designers and management professionals trained to respond to the urban complexity. And the number of female experts is disproportionately low. That’s what motivated me to study a Master’s; so that I can contribute.
“I believe that a well-planned, well-built environment can have long-term implications for quality of life, and I believe that it is a human right to live in the city in a free environment.”
Equity and Merit Scholarship
Drawn from across Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, our Equity and Merit scholars represent the best and the brightest of their communities.
These exceptional students come to The University of Manchester to study a Master’s degree in a subject not available in their home country. After they graduate, they share their newfound knowledge and skills with their communities back home.
While the University covers all tuition fees, generous donors cover the students’ living expenses, flights, and visa costs.
“(Studying in Manchester) was my first time in the UK, and Europe, so everything was new, and I was excited to see more of the world and experience new cultures. My scholarship allowed me to make the most of my time at Manchester; I had some of my greatest moments here.
“It was great going back home with my degree with distinction. It was a victory for myself, my family and my country.”
Tackling the challenges of urbanisation
After completing her degree, Esther received an opportunity to train with an architecture and planning firm in New York, USA for seven months and then returned to Rwanda to work at Surbana Jurong, a Singaporean-owned company that designs cities and improves infrastructure for sustainable industrial development and urban living.
Esther and Surbana Jurong are working with the Government of Rwanda to review the master plans for Kigali, the capital, and six secondary cities in Rwanda.
“I am now using my planning skills to help shape the continuing development of my country.
“In the future I would like to give back to my community by lecturing at a university in Rwanda, as a way to transfer my knowledge to others.”
Esther is in no doubt that she would not be in this position to help her country tackle the challenges of urbanisation without her education at Manchester, and the financial support she received.
“Being awarded the scholarship was a dream come true! My education at Manchester was particularly valuable; it was very important for my future success.
“I remember a statement from the welcome video that said: ‘Connect with Manchester and the world will connect with you’. I am now seeing this materialise. God has opened many more doors since then; I now have the responsibility to walk through.”
Esther’s Equity & Merit Scholarship was funded by the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Trust and she is just one of many students from the developing world who are able to study at Manchester with the support of a donor-funded scholarship.
“Supporting education is the best way to make an impact. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’.
“There are many people out there with potential but who can’t afford quality education. Investing in them is an invaluable contribution to changing the world to a better place for themselves and for future generations.”