UMH renews and expands its development cooperation and internationalization projects in Rwanda

With the pandemic subsiding, a delegation from the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH), led by its rector, Juan José Ruiz Martínez, traveled to Rwanda to rekindle its development cooperation activities there and to foster exchange projects with universities from that central African country. The delegation toured the installations at Nemba Hospital and held meetings with the primary local and regional authorities from the Northern Province, as well as with leaders at elementary and high schools, and universities too.

Besides the rector, the UMH delegation was comprised of Vice Rector for International Relations, Vicente Micol Molina; Vice Rector for Student Affairs and Coordination, José Juan López Espín; and the director of the Service of International Relations, Development Cooperation and Volunteerism, Inmaculada Blaya Salvador. Others present in the visits and meetings included the director of the UMH Headquarters in Rwanda Chair, Mariano Pérez Arroyo, who is also a strong advocate for the university presence in the African country, in addition to the UMH representative in Rwanda, Jean Basa Ngabo.

The UMH group was able to tour and see first-hand much of the infrastructure and projects that the UMH started in the Northern Province more than 15 years ago, in a place that for many has become the fifth university campus.

UMH cooperation in Rwanda began first at the Nemba Hospital, and as of today, the university has been collaborating with this small provincial health center for over 15 years. One of the most significant projects, and what was unveiled by the rector on this trip, was the provision of a 6-bed intensive care unit complete with one ventilator. This ICU construction was made possible by donations from the chair, businesses, and by private individuals through the UMH patronage program. To ensure continuity of this project, the chair is coordinating stays by volunteers from the Spanish Society of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine and Coronary Units (SEMICIUC) at the Nemba Hospital ICU.

The UMH is also paying to provide medical coverage through Rwandan social security (Mutuelle de Santé) for 364 vulnerable Nemba families who are currently in great need following floods and the Covid-19 pandemic. Hidrotecnoagua is also providing support for this action.

During their stay, the UMH representatives also visited the Saint Vicent de Paul G.S. de Nemba elementary school, for which the UMH has constructed two buildings, one classroom, and its lunchroom. The UMH also provides annual funding to help keep the student lunchroom operating.

Likewise, the UMH also collaborates on improvements to the infrastructure of two high schools of excellence, qualified as such by the university entrance examinations their students receive upon high school graduation. In one of these, the ESSA-Ruhengeri, the UMH helped remodel its kitchen, teaching spaces, and it built its library, which was inaugurated by the rector along with various Rwandan authorities. The UMH group also visited the school radio station that the UMH implemented as part of an educational communication program, for which university volunteers have provided training sessions in the past. The radio station also receives funding from the UMH Board of Trustees and Generalitat Valenciana. The other high school visited by the UMH representatives was Apeki-Tumba TVET, and there the rector signed a framework collaboration agreement to provide for improvements to some infrastructure affecting its student dormitories.

Furthermore, the UMH group also visited two universities as part of a framework for expanding UMH policy for international collaboration with centers of higher education. Along these lines, the European Commission has awarded the UMH a KA171 project within the Erasmus+ program that will enable exchanges by faculty and students with the INES-Ruhengeri university of Rwanda. Following the visit to the installations and the meetings held with its rector and with local authorities, both academic institutions expressed their willingness to jointly carry out academic and research cooperation projects. The UMH also meet with IPRC-Musanze, another Rwandan higher education institution, with which the UMH aims to be awarded with another KA171 project, also for exchanges of faculty and students.

The culmination of the stay in Rwanda by the UMH delegation was an official visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, and there they laid a wreath in remembrance of the victims.

The UMH maintains stable structures and infrastructure to welcome volunteers. Following a stoppage of the volunteering program due to Covid-19, the university aims to restart its summer volunteering program so that UMH students from all areas can perform cooperation tasks within Rwanda.