When the COVID-19 pandemic spread in Rwanda, the country went into total lockdown. This meant students couldn’t go to school. Norbert Butare, a twenty-one-year-old Rwandan international student, realized the gap in the Rwandan education spectrum. He founded Ikaramu, which gives young writers, bloggers, and future authors a platform to write about their social, political, or economic perspectives in different ways.
The young visionary worked on the Ikaramu for two months before organizing a team of young Rwandans to help him run the platform, making sure it is user-friendly and helpful to all stakeholders. Ikaramu is a direct translation of the word pen from Kinyarwanda language. The internet has become the modern-day pen, and Norbert intends to use it to give youth in Rwanda a voice.
Norbert Butare’s passion for education is one of his strongest qualities. He came to the US in fall of 2018 to finish high school and is currently a sophomore at Florida International University in Miami, taking up international business. When he learned about the threat to education in his homeland, he knew he had to act quickly to help his fellow Rwandan youth get the learning that they deserved. He wanted to build an easily accessible and understandable online resource for young students to contribute to and learn from. Ikaramu gives young Rwandan writers a platform to express their writing creativity, connects peer-to-peer writers in an effort to improve idea sharing, and offers awards to top writers in competitions in the form of prize money, school fees, school materials, and many more.
Rwandan students were quick to contribute to the new platform. The website boasts of a growing repository of English and French think pieces, poems, essays, and stories pertaining to issues affecting the country. The platform has helped the youth make their voices known and showcase their writing ability.
Ikaramu currently hosts its platforms at its headquarters in Kigali, Rwanda, and its website. The team behind the platform recently rolled out its Android app and soon will be launching its iOS counterpart to make the platform more accessible and user-friendly to mobile users.
In its upcoming ventures, Ikaramu is also partnering with major Rwandan publishing companies in order to publish some of the Ikaramu contributors. Ikaramu is in the process of creating a writing competition that will offer scholarships and other similar education-oriented awards.
While the platform’s primary audience is Rwandan youth, Norbert also hopes to reach American audiences to help raise awareness about issues in the African continent. Ikaramu is also aiming to tap foreign investors and nonprofit organizations to partner with to further improve the platform. Ikaramu is the only one of its kind in Rwanda that is helping to cultivate the youths’ minds amid academic hurdles brought by the COVID-19 crisis.
Norbert hopes to promote gifted Rwandan authors who do not get the platforms they deserve. He considers them untapped potential that could potentially develop the country.
Ikaramu is aiming to be the biggest private literature hub in Rwanda, with several successful authors building their foundation on the platform.Read what Rwandan youths are discussing on the Ikaramu website.