15.06.2016 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

Youth enterprise paves the way to education in Burundi

© Japhet Bigirimana

My name is Japhet Bigirimana. I’m 22 years old and from the Bujumbura-Mairie Province in Burundi.

I was one of twelve children born into a very poor family. Money was often so tight that we barely had enough to eat or to buy necessities such as soap. When my mother died when I was in grade 4, I had no choice but to drop out of school as we could no longer pay for the uniforms, materials or fees. Life became very hard.

I really wanted to continue my education so I started doing odd jobs to earn some money, like fetching water for neighbours. I was only earning a small sum but when I saved it up and put it together, I found that I was able to pay for my school clothes, books, notebooks and pens. I returned to school but I was the only one of my siblings able to do so.

When it was time to start secondary school, the issue of school fees became problematic again and I was faced with the reality that I might not be able to attend. But then I had an idea, what if I got together with other young people in the same situation and started a business that enabled us all to pay for our schooling.  We called our organization Ikangure (Wake up)!

I carried out some research around the neighbourhood and my friends and I pooled our resources to buy things like soap and peanuts that we could sell on for a small profit. The business did so well that with a start-up capital of just 5,000 francs (almost 3 Euros), we soon managed to save 700,000 francs (350 Euros).

This might not sound like much, but to us it has been a huge help. It has enabled us to go back to school, purchase uniforms and the other materials we need and, most importantly of all, send all of my siblings to school!

The organization has also expanded to provide young people with training in entrepreneurial skills and conflict resolution. We also organize theatre productions and football matches under the theme of “social cohesion”.

We’ve now started nine other similar initiatives to help other youth in various parts of Burundi and our ultimate goal is to go national! It really is amazing just how much a group of dedicated and determined young people can achieve!


What better day than the Day of the African Child 2016 (16 June), to highlight the valuable work of Japhet, and so many other young women and men like him, in driving change and claiming the rights to learn, work and participate in the decisions that affect them.

The UNESCO Youth Programme continues to support young people, like Japhet, to be the change they wish to see in the world, through a variety of UNESCO initiatives.

The Youth Programme works on the development of programmes and policies that create an enabling and rights-based environment where youth prosper, exercise rights, regain hope and a sense of community, and engage as responsible social actors and innovators.

•    Find out more about UNESCO’s work with youth …
•    For up to the minute updates, follow us now at www.facebook.com/UNESCOyouth
•    Contact: youthcontent(at)unesco.org

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