Patrick Rukundo


Being a foreigner is difficult, but somehow manageable when you know that you always can go back home to your family. For Patrick from Rwanda, this is not a possibility. His drive towards getting an education and the reality of his home country has kept him moving forward.

Patrick Rukundo shares his journey, ‘Life takes on different hues and they are sometimes beyond human anticipation. It was on 6th April 1994 when I saw a landing airplane being shut down while it prepared to land on the airport. Ever since then, my life took on different direction towards an unknown destination. I was 12 years old when the whole incident of Rwanda genocide took place. Walking non-stop, sleeping outside, and hunger became my day to day. Everything looked scary and strange. Most of my generation was gone. Seeing dead people piled like logs of trees. Looking at other people being killed with no one to intervene. These scenes were recorded in not only my memory, but the memory of many young and older people of that time. I kept walking.’

The Rwandan Genocide was an ethnical mass slaughter that lasted for an approximate 100-day period An estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed, constituting as much as 20% of the country’s total population.

For 15 years Patrick traveled across Africa, searching for a place to call home. He stayed in refugee camps and found piece jobs that allowed him to have some income to survive. ‘Before South Africa, I spent three years in Mozambique and got a job working in a shop. I remember these two ladies that would come into the shop everyday, they were University students, it was a torture for me. I looked at myself and I knew that I had a desire to study. I left and this is where my journey began in South Africa.’

When Patrick came to Cape Town in 2009 he was displaced once again, faced with another country, another culture and another way of living. ‘Even though the idea of studying was still there, I kept telling myself that it was too late for me to resume schooling after 17 years of absenteeism. I was 27 years old and had only completed my grade 5.’ Patrick found a job and started paying for a basic computer skills course but he felt this was not enough. He joined an ABET (Adult Basic Education and Training) course and completed level 2 – 4 and gained an award for his mathematical proficiency.

This gave Patrick the foundation that he needed to be able to complete his Matric. ‘I was accepted into Education For Africa and I completed my matric in 2013. I initially registered for five subjects and thought this was enough. But four days before exams were due, I was told I needed six subjects.’ Patrick’s dream of getting an education was on the brink of being taken away but this did not deter Patrick. ‘I immediately registered for my sixth subject; I chose the subject that I thought was the easiest one. I did some google research and studied the subject for four days. To my amazement this was the subject where I got an A.’ This was a great moment for Patrick and for the first time he felt that his life had begun.

His matric results were enough for him to be accepted for a full scholarship at TSiBA (Tertiary School in Business Administration) where he is currently in his first year of studying a Higher Certificate in Business Administration.

When we spoke to Patrick about the future he said ‘One day I want to own my own business that is big enough to be able to provide jobs and opportunities to many people. I am not sure what the business will be but all I know is that it will be socially responsible. I believe in paying it forward, passing on the skills, knowledge and opportunities that has been given to me onto others.’

Patrick represents many people who despite not having an education in their early years show us that you are never too old to learn. He finished the interview by saying, ‘do not limit yourself, age is just a number.’

Patrick is a student at TSiBA.

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