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The story he didn’t tell his child: Uzayisaba’s testimony about the pitfalls alcohol

Nothing pleases a parent more than sitting down and sharing stories of their youth with their children. However, it is saddening when there are stories they cannot tell due to their distressing nature, especially to the young listeners.

Bernardin Uzayisaba, the Development Officer at UNDP Rwanda, shared with university students the negative effects of alcohol, revealing stories he couldn’t tell his 7-year-old child about his life of drunkenness as a student.

As a student at the former National University of Rwanda in Butare from 2001 to 2010, he recalled being part of a group known as ‘Abakonari.’ This group, mainly science students, were known for their carefree attitude, distinct dress style, and habit of eating before others, unconcerned about peers’ opinions.

Uzayisaba said, “I loved this group. You could see a member dressed in jeans and a shirt, arriving confidently at school. We were six students, five boys and one girl, always the first in the restaurant, speaking freely without care.”

However, he didn’t drink alcohol, having quit in 1996. His friends mocked him, calling him a fool who contributed nothing, or joking that a brain filled with science but no alcohol was useless.

Uzayisaba abstained because he had quit drinking. He mentioned another group that required having a romantic partner to join, where one’s partner dictated their attire and speech to avoid being left for someone else. Membership also involved finding daily funds to watch movies with a partner.

On Fridays, ‘Abakonari’ members would drink outside campus and return the next day. But not all days were good. One unforgettable Friday, after dining and heavy drinking, they decided to walk home around 8 pm, feeling the road was theirs, as no cars were expected.

Uzayisaba, the sober one, noticed a speeding car and tried to warn his drunk friends. He and another drunk friend, Gatera, managed to move some friends off the road. Tragically, Benoit was hit by the car and died instantly.

This incident deeply affected them. Gatera decided never to drink again. They attended the funeral and continued their studies, but Gatera, despite his brilliance, repeated a year and finished later.

Uzayisaba consistently warns about the dangers of alcohol. Despite not drinking, he witnessed its consequences among his peers. Gatera, who worked at “Shema Fruits,” returned to drinking and was fired for being drunk at work.

Gatera found another job in Kigali but was again dismissed due to his drinking habits. Uzayisaba lost touch with Gatera as he pursued a Master’s in Huye and later worked at UNDP.

Last year, during a family trip to Butare, Uzayisaba was shocked to see Gatera begging on the streets. He felt ashamed to tell his children that Gatera, once a brilliant classmate, ended up begging due to alcohol.

This experience changed Uzayisaba’s hiring criteria, focusing more on behavior than academic excellence, as character is not taught in school but is crucial in the workplace.

He concluded by advising the youth against indulging in destructive behaviors like excessive drinking, as it ruins their future and hinders their contributions to the country.

Straight out of Twitter