Meet Faithful E. Abaho, an educator and innovator in Rwanda where she works as the Student Affairs Officer at White Dove Global Prep and an Entrepreneurship Teacher.
Faithful obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship and Project Management from the Uganda Christian University in 2014, and took a job applying these skills with a start-up company.
Faithful vividly recalls the moment that set her on her current course – reading the local newspaper, she tells AMI that an incremental increase in the percentage of female graduates from the national university, to 32%, was being celebrated as a highlight. As she says, “It was something to celebrate, yet it instead broke my heart!” She set her mind to doing something about it.
At the time she was also reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great, on how only some companies attain greatness. The book outlined three questions – applicable to personal and commercial success.
She remembers them as follows:
1. What are you passionate about? What does your heart beat for? 2. What are you the best at in the world? (The world could be as big or small as you make it, e.g. it could be your family, or your country, or your school, or your neighbourhood) 3. How can you make money out of the two?
Faithful tells us that these questions haunted her. “I embarked on a soul-searching journey to really find myself and these answers. I asked my close family and friends. I prayed. Eventually, I had my answers to the first two: I am passionate about people (especially the youth) and being a voice. I am best at communication, public speaking, and creativity.”
In pursuit of the third, she made a long list of potential careers that intersected her skillset and passions and spent time volunteering and interning in various of them. It was teaching that eventually grabbed her – and in September she begins a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration.
“As an Entrepreneurship teacher, I like to encourage creativity with my students. I believe innovative solutions are the key to solving problems in our communities. I challenged my students to form teams and scan their environments to see what resources they had at their disposal and create a solution to a gap or need within their school. We set up a day to showcase their projects, a day their parents would be able to come to the school and witness the event. "
"Each of the teams spent very little money (mostly raised through each person's contribution). The money was used to enhance their creations. Some made jewellery from boxes and kitenge fabric left over by local tailors, others made jewellery from paper from old calendars, and others got their old pair of jeans and turned them into nice purses. We invited a panel of judges to rate the teams and give their advice. Each team made an average of 10 times what was invested from selling to their families and peers!"
"From this, a school Entrepreneurship club was birthed. The students in the club later approached the school administration to buy donuts from them for Saturday breakfast. The school agreed and no longer bought bread for 300 students from an outside bakery, but instead purchased donuts made by their students the night before."
"Another club that was started was the Public Speaking Club. Within just one term, a huge improvement in public speaking skills and confidence developed amongst the students! This club later came to be totally student run. As the Students Affairs Officer, my role is to constantly be on the lookout for what new initiatives can be created to enhance student learning, especially in terms of clubs, inviting experts to speak to the students and planning study trips among others.”
Faithful also serves as the Pan African Youth Leadership Program Mentor for the Rwanda Chapter. This is a program run by the United States government each year that brings together students from across the African continent to visit the US for a three-week training and cultural exchange, during which they attend workshops on social entrepreneurship and community engagement.
"Four or five students are chosen from each country through a rigorous application process. She describes her role as, “To mentor and guide the participants as they prepare for their trip. The mentor also chaperones the trip to the US and also helps guide the students in starting and running a project in their home countries upon return, in order to give back to their communities.”
Faithful tells us that her African role models are her parents, Dr Tarsis and Deborah Gasatura Kagwisagye; Fred Swaniker, founder of the African Leadership University; Dr. Strive Masiyiwa, founder of Econet, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame. What she most admires is servant leadership, and that they are leaders with vision who are passionate about the African continent, as opposed to just their own countries.
She is well aware that President Kagame is a controversial leader. In 2017 he was re-elected for a third seven year term, after which, according to the constitutional amendment passed by referendum, he will be eligible to run for another two five-year terms. Faithful’s view is that, “He didn't create this situation. In fact, you can find many articles where he was quoted saying he doesn't intend to stay in power. However, we the citizens begged him! We petitioned him to stay and since it was an overwhelming petition from all over the country, he was persuaded into granting our request."
"We asked for this, for him to stay longer, not the other way around. Once one's leadership is very fruitful, people are very happy with the results. Most people want to change their leaders because they don't practise what they preach. They say one thing during the campaign and once voted in, totally forget the reason they ran for office in the first place - the people. They then start thinking only about themselves! That's why I said earlier that one of the reasons he's my role model is because of his servant leadership.
"The first Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew stayed in power for three decades and if you're to read their history and the diverse Singaporean culture, you know it was the best decision they made for him to stay in power that long! In just three decades, he got his country from third world to first world! Of course, the media will always broadcast whatever they want. The smart thing is to stay focused on your goals and let your results speak for themselves.”
In ten years’ time Faithful would like to be almost finished her PhD in research relating to improving education and running "a thriving Pan African Centre that celebrates the beauty of Africa through its diverse cultures."
"I'd like to see an Africa that offers cutting-edge education at university level so that we have limited the brain drain "I'd like to see an Africa that offers cutting-edge education at university level so that we have limited the brain drain with much of our good talent going abroad for school and staying there.”
Faithful recently moderated a panel at a Q&A organised by our youngest ambassador, Shanice Mutabazi. Take a look at that event here: https://www.africamattersinitiative.com/single-post/2018/07/08/School-Talk-QA-at-Maranyundo-Girls-School-Rwanda