Youth First Rwanda

Youth First | Rwanda

Background + Situation

In the nearly 30 years since the tragedy of the 1994 genocide that ravaged the country, Rwanda has emerged as a model for development in Africa with its growing middle class and reputation for fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. But even as Rwanda is praised for its phenomenal progress, exponential growth, and regional influence, the country still faces many challenges associated with entrenched poverty, gender bias, and the lingering effects of a country traumatized by genocide.

A substantial percentage of rural and urban Rwandan families still struggle to meet basic needs on a daily basis. In 2016, nearly 60% of the population was living below the international poverty line (the equivalent of USD 1.90 per day) and just over 80% below the lower middle-income threshold of $3.20 per day.

In 2018, only 39% of students transitioned from primary to secondary school, with enrollment steadily declining in higher grades. Recent data point to rising rates of teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence, drug use, school dropout, under-employment, and suicide among Rwandan youth.

CorStone Response | Youth First Rwanda

Youth First Rwanda | YFR is a school-based integrated resilience and adolescent health program designed to improve mental and physical well-being and education-related outcomes among lower secondary school (S-1) students (ages 13-15).

In 2020, Youth First was adapted and contextualized for Rwandan youth based on a formative assessment conducted by CorStone and local partner Inspire, Educate and Empower Rwanda | IEE.

CorStone and IEE then conducted a five-school pilot to fine-tune the YFR approach to training, delivery, and assessment in Rwanda. Incorporating lessons learned from the pilot, the program formally launched in 50 schools across 5 districts in September 2021.

In 2022-23, working in partnership with The Wellspring Foundation and the Rwanda Basic Education Board | RBEB, CorStone launched a 100-school ‘realist’ mixed methods evaluation of the program among 7,000 youth. With the evidence and learnings gained from such a study, we hope to lay the foundation for the scale-up of Youth First to no less than 30,000 S-1 students (50% of total) per year in public schools across all 30 districts in Rwanda by the end of 2025.

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