Rwanda – Gambling addiction: Are students falling prey?

It is not uncommon for students to indulge in dangerous vices and the most recent is gambling. With the upsurge of betting companies and slot machines, the gambling trend among the youth could apparently be an issue of concern.

On the streets of Kimironko, a Kigali suburb, a group of three male students were roaming the streets. It was almost midday and they seemed to be coming from betting. This I observed from the conversation they were having, rejoicing over the amount they had gained and consequently planning for it.

One of the boys, Christian, who was only 11 years old, said he doesn’t engage in betting but knows peers who do. He understands that some slot machine owners do not let children play, “But there are those who don’t limit children like some that operate in Nyabisindu. You just need to have money,” the P6 student adds.

A distraction to students

One parent (names withheld) who resides in Nyabisindu, Kimironko, decries betting noting that it has affected her son to the extent of turning him into a ‘crook’.

“My son is in primary five and he is a bright kid at school but his behaviour is starting to worry me. He started stealing money such that he plays betting, I have tried to talk to the guy who operates the machine here, but the kid has since shifted to another slot machine,” – she says.

Though Antoine Rusingizandekwe, the headmaster of GS EPA St Michel says gambling is not that big a problem to be a threat to schools, he consequently highlights about a recent case where two girls from his school were photographed playing at slot machines.

“That was one among a few cases that at times go unnoticed, something that happens when students are not dressed in school uniform. We just want students to behave, this is why we took that case to warn other students as well,” – he says.

The mother of Shania Uwitonze, one of the two girls who were photographed, says some students engage in such activities out of peer pressure.

“It was the first time for my daughter to do such, she had never done such things before. We found out it was other students who took them there,” – she says.

One slot machine operator based in Kimironko, chose to speak on grounds of anonymity. He said slot machine owners should take responsibility and not allow young children indulge in these activities.

“We don’t let children play. I also at times identify school children by their uniforms but also when a client comes and I suspect them to be under the age of eighteen, I ask them for an ID card,” – he says.

The director of career guidance and counselling unit at Rwanda Education Board, Ngoga Eugène Fixer says slot machines and gambling are a distraction to students. He compared such scenarios to be as destructive as having a pub near a school.

He admits that as per now, there are neither overall assessment nor running counter-measures as they are still in the planning phase of addressing this.


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