Ten Years of Gratitude OC, Rwanda celebrate partnership, commit to serving more students
Paul Kagame hailed the decade-long partnership between Rwanda and Oklahoma Christian, terming it a valuable lesson on the power of human relationships and shared values to drive change and sustain ambitions.
The Rwandan president spoke at a recent dinner reception in Rwanda celebrating the 10-year partnership with OC. The dinner was also attended by First Lady Jeanette Kagame. The Kagames are both honorary OC alumni.
President Kagame called the 10-year partnership one of the most meaningful and productive Rwanda has enjoyed with a higher learning institution around the world.
“The relationship with Oklahoma Christian University is without doubt among the most productive and meaningful that we enjoy with institutions of higher learning around the world,” Kagame said. “In our view, that strength comes from the shared character traits and positive mindsets that we recognized in each other from the onset and which we seek to instill in our young people.”
Over the 10-year period, 421 Rwandan students have had access to education from OC. Out of the total, 201 have studied in Oklahoma City while 220 students were enrolled in OC’s MBA program in Kigali, Rwanda.
The two parties developed close ties and partnership in 2004 following a visit by an OC team composed of university trustee Richard Lawson and then-president Mike O’Neal.
From the visit, university officials learned the course Rwanda was taking and devised ways to make a sustainable and long-term contribution.
“They saw what we were trying to do in Rwanda and how Oklahoma Christian University could make a real difference. Most importantly, they understood that our approach was fundamentally value-based, much like Oklahoma Christian’s educational philosophy. It was therefore a meeting of both minds and hearts and under Mike’s leadership, Oklahoma Christian took immediate action,” Kagame said.
In 2006, OC launched a scholarship program that brought the first 10 Rwandan students to Oklahoma. This initial batch went on to build a strong bond between the country and the Oklahoma community, as they were hosted by host families.
“The first Rwandans who went to Oklahoma Christian did not just live in dormitories; they stayed with host families and became part of a home. Over time, we saw these families had come to love their children as their own. Thank you to all of the Oklahoma family,” Kagame said.
Kagame praised OC’s alumni for working hard despite some of their struggles to catch up academically and linguistically.
Their success, he said, was more than an individual feat as it has opened doors for more beneficiaries in the country and is set to further benefit more people.
“It is important to understand how crucial this is in our country’s context. Success is never just about the individual who achieves it. When each of us performs at our best, we create new possibilities for others that may not otherwise exist. By showing that Rwandans could not only compete but excel, you showed that opportunities you enjoyed would multiply and continue to be available in the future,” he said.
Going forward, Kagame said the government would do its best to ensure the partnership’s productivity.
“The story is a valuable lesson on the power of human relationships and shared values to drive change and sustain ambitions,” he said. “One of the traits we share is tenacity in the traits of adversity, our respective experience has taught us that you can come from Rwanda, Oklahoma, or anywhere else and strive to be among the best. That is why it is important for us to continue on this journey together for years to come.”
O’Neal, who now serves as chancellor for the University of Rwanda, said OC’s choice of Rwanda as a partner was informed by multiple shared traits – including resilience, ambition, and determination.
He said the university was driven to make a positive contribution given the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and the country’s zeal to progress in multiple fronts.
He challenged OC’s alumni to put into practice their lessons from the institution to solve the country’s challenges and facilitate development both in the private and public sectors.
Speaking on behalf of her fellow OC alumni, Aline Kabanda, managing director of Akilah Women’s Institute, said the partnership had opened an opportunity for hundreds of young people to access education and serve their country.
Graduates from the university serve across multiple fields in Rwanda, including ICT, management, media, creative industry, water and sanitation health, and aviation.
View more stories from the Spring 2017 issue of Vision magazine.