In a declaration of commitment to nurturing young sporting talents, Rwanda’s Director General in charge of Sports Development at the Ministry of Sports, Rwego Ngarambe, has affirmed that the ‘Isonga Project’ is here to stay. Describing it as a platform where Rwanda’s future sporting stars are being groomed, Ngarambe’s remarks came during the closing ceremony of the ‘Isonga Training Camp’ in Nyanza district on Friday, September 8.
The ‘Isonga Project’ is a sports talent development initiative initiated by the Ministry of Sports, in collaboration with the French Development Agency (AFD). Its primary objective is to unearth, develop, and promote young talents, both male and female, in various sporting disciplines, including Football, Volleyball, Basketball, Handball, Cycling, and Athletics.
Despite facing challenges, including disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was relaunched in June 2022 when the Ministry of Sports and its partners provided equipment to the selected schools participating in the program.
The inaugural ‘Isonga Training Camp’ saw the participation of 502 children from 17 schools across Rwanda. These budding talents were trained by a team of 12 coaches and 37 trained teachers during the week-long camp at College du Christ Roi Nyanza.
Beyond honing their sporting skills, the program also emphasized civic education, encouraging the youngsters to embrace Rwandan values in their careers. Ngarambe expressed satisfaction with the camp’s outcome, praising the talented children and their promising futures.
The success of this inaugural edition has inspired plans for more training camps and expanded program implementation in additional schools. The Ministry of Sports, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, is actively exploring ways to support children who may transition to new schools not initially part of the ‘Isonga Project.’
During the closing ceremony, young students aged under 13 years showcased their talents in a demonstration football game. Elie Ariel Impano, a 13-year-old beneficiary of the Isonga-AFD program, shared his appreciation for the camp, highlighting the importance of more extensive training camps and regular competitions.
The ‘Isonga Project’ initially began in 2009 as a talent pool approach for male footballers. In 2019, it underwent revision to encompass a broader scope of sporting disciplines and include both genders. To support program implementation, the Ministry of Sports secured financing worth Euros 1.5 million from AFD. This funding will primarily be utilized for repairing and upgrading sports infrastructure in schools and training sports education teachers directly involved in the program.
The government’s vision through this initiative is to identify, nurture, and promote young talents, ensuring inclusivity and equality for boys and girls. It aims to prepare them for participation in major sporting events in the near future.
Director General Ngarambe emphasized the importance of this developmental phase, stating, “The future belongs here, and you can’t expect it when you skip the development phase.” The ‘Isonga Project’ serves as a beacon of hope for Rwanda’s aspiring young athletes, offering them the support and opportunities they need to shine on the global stage.