Literacy serves as a fundamental human right that needs to be nurtured in every person. Not only is it a concern for individuals, but it is also an essential consideration for society’s development. To be literate means having a higher fighting chance of availing educational and economic opportunities that can pull people out of poverty and unemployment. And for communities, the literacy rate is an indicator of social and economic well-being.
It is, therefore, important to maintain systems encouraging literacy and appreciate initiatives that promote it. IKARAMU, a writing platform for aspiring bloggers, writers, and authors, is one such effort committed to raising literacy. This platform is under a company founded by twenty-one-year-old Norbert Butare.
Norbert is an international student from Rwanda who came to the US in the Fall of 2018 to finish high school and is currently a sophomore at Florida International University in Miami, taking International Business. The COVID-19 pandemic sparked this young man’s move to bring together young Rwandans for a cause.
One of the significant worldwide consequences of the pandemic was the temporary shutting down of schools. When Rwanda went into total lockdown, it highlighted to Norbert a gap in the Rwandan educational system and prompted him to establish a company that would offer an avenue to young writers, bloggers, and aspiring authors to write about their social, political, and economic perspectives.
After working on the details of the platform for two months, Norbert then organized a team of young Rwandans to moderate and make it a safe space. And now, IKARAMU has emerged as a strategic place that approaches the promotion of literacy at different angles. For one, it connects writers to their peers in an effort to improve idea-sharing. Moreover, it bestows reward and appreciation to the best writers, awarding prize money, school materials, and more to its competitions’ winners.
With its website already launched and accessible to users, IKARAMU has also rolled out its Android app and is set to introduce to the public its IOS counterpart very soon. Part of the upcoming ventures of the platform, as well, is the partnership with big Rwandan publishing companies that would assist in the publication of some of the works of IKARAMU’s contributors.
Currently, IKARAMU is in the process of opening a writing competition that will offer scholarships and other awards. Norbert hopes that this will become one of many future opportunities intended to encourage the expansion of the skills of Rwandan writers. And while IKARAMU’s primary audience is Rwandan youth, Norbert envisions it to become a space for Americans, too.
In the coming years, this young visionary hopes IKARAMU to be the biggest private literature hub in Rwanda, producing several successful authors who can call the platform their home. It will also continue to capitalize on digital channels to widen its reach. This reliance on cyberspace is because IKARAMU is a direct translation of the word pen in the Kinyarwanda language. And given that the Internet has become the modern-day pen, Norbert intends to use it to give everyone a voice and allow them to share how they perceive the world.