Getting admitted to the university and getting a scholarship is a great pleasure for every high school graduate and his parents because it is realized that the efforts made in the studies have not been in vain.
The government covers your tuition fees and gives you a monthly stipend to cover the essentials. Study and get paid monthly? I thought managing my own money was going to change my lifestyle.
In September 2015, I started my first year at the University of Rwanda. I was admitted to the School of Journalism and Communication of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
Like the other students, I was delighted, but also anxious. I was going to move from my hometown in the southern province of Huye district, where I also went to school, to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. And I was going to receive a stipend of 25,000 RWF (US $ 25) per month.
I thought I was going to be rich, live a life of luxury, buy the clothes I wanted, eat when I wanted, have fun with friends, and save money for a business.
I had no idea that electricity and water bills were going to be added to the list of other basics such as food, lotion, soap, sanitary napkins, photocopies of notes, internet and weather antenna, among others.
The challenge was to manage the little money I had after realizing I had to cover a lot of expenses that I didn’t expect.
As I was going to be away from home, my parents wanted me to live in a college hostel – it wasn’t my wish, but I applied.
As a freshman, I was accepted into a hostel on campus. But, before paying for the hostel, the crooks used technology to steal the money. I opted for the ghetto because it was cheaper than paying the full amount of hostels on campus. I was happy that I wasn’t living on campus, but I was sad about the money I had lost.
For those students who take the risk of living off campus, it is important to plan ahead. You need to have cash, which will help you start a new life.
During the first two months in the ghetto, I discovered how difficult it was to manage finances when I started paying for water and electricity. As soon as I paid these bills, I heard someone knocking on my door. She collected money for garbage disposal.
I lived with two other students, and we shared the bills although it was not easy as I didn’t know anything about the bills or the cost of electricity when I was living with my parents.
More money from the house
Every time I paid an amount I was like, ouch, what is this? But I had to pay. And I got used to it. I used the pocket money I had to buy the little things I wanted, like perfume, phone accessories, and jewelry. But the support I received from my family has faded; my mother warned me to use my allowances correctly, pointing out that she could no longer send money.
So after the second month, I only relied on the monthly living allowance. Life got tough and I started to learn to spend wisely.
By the third month, I had to pay the rent with my roommates and plan for other expenses. We had to stock up so as not to run out of money.
So we made sure everyone contributed US $ 15 for shared responsibilities and kept US $ 10 for personal use. As difficult as it was, I tried to buy cheap items and leave the rest for others.
Occasionally I received a little money from family and colleagues, but I couldn’t count on it. But I could use it to buy shoes, clothes, or other items that I dreamed of but couldn’t afford with the monthly allowance.
Increased living allowances
The students appealed to the government that they could not live on US $ 25 and the living allowance was increased to RWF 40,000. Like other students, I was happy with the increase, but a little worried because I was planning to start a small business.
The allowance was delayed for three months, but then we received an arrears of salary as well as the following month’s allowance. I used some of the money to start a small business selling phone accessories like covers, screen protectors, chargers, and headsets.
My main clients were students. This business helped me get some extra money. It wasn’t much, but it helped me until I graduated. I quit the company when I started working as a journalist at Radio Salus, which is owned by the University of Rwanda. I was just too busy to combine the two activities.
The first year taught me the culture of being thrifty.
Currently, young people are trained to save early and try to create jobs from their savings. This training is provided as part of the Capital Market University Challenge which is organized each year.
This golden opportunity started when I was no longer a student, and those who participated and won say it instilled in them a culture of saving and that they are optimistic about a better future. More young people should seize the opportunity to develop a culture of savings.
Alice Tembasi, 25, graduated from the School of Journalism and Communication and currently practices journalism at Radio Salus at the University of Rwanda. She is a poet, actress and performer.