Children and youth, in whom visions of national development are invested, are central to post-conflict state-building efforts. In the case of Rwanda, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has initiated an ambitious programme of state re-engineering that seeks to transform Rwanda into a knowledge-based economy and thereby achieve middle-income status by 2020. Success or failure of this imagined future is largely contingent on the 65% of the population under age 25. Through cross-analysis of three research studies, this paper explores how RPF policies have converged with the lives of children and youth, so as to get a pulse on the post-genocide micro-social environment and thereby examine the effectiveness of the RPF's governance. This approach provides key insights into these dynamics by assessing how the RPF's policies related to children's rights, school-based education and transitions to adulthood have affected the lives, expectations and aspirations of young people. It is argued that the RPF's commitment to rapid reconstruction and development, such as universal access to education, has resulted in promising developments for young people, and has generated high aspirations for the future. However, the purposive imposition of the government's goals is predicated on a specific vision of a promised future that is often at odds with young people's daily realities. This dynamic risks generating a new sense of exclusion and foreclosing opportunity for many young people. Thus, as the RPF moves forward with its Vision 2020 goals, it must do so with a nuanced and astute assessment of how these policies interact with young people's experiences and shape expectations. While young people largely subscribe to the RPF's visionary approach to development, where it contradicts their daily realities, young people's responses weigh heavily on the possibility of the vision of either the RPF – or young people – being fully realized.