Why genocide ideology studies are key in peace building

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Students of Kagarama SS commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Messages to fight Genocide ideology can be transmitted through school clubs. (Dennis Agaba)

Following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, it emerged that many youth of school-going age actively participated in this horrendous act. However, most of them acted due to influence from their superiors through lifelong hate speech and inculcation of genocide ideology from their teachers and parents.

The Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2010 by UNESCO shows that teaching practice and the history curriculum inculcated genocide ideology among students through a number of ways in the pre-genocide education system , which provided fertile ground for conflict and genocide.

“From this curriculum, ethnic identification, biased access to national examinations, violent forms of punishment, discriminatory policy, as well as biased content pertaining to the teaching and learning of history and events were emphasized in classrooms,” notes the report.

The report shows that the history taught at both primary and secondary levels propagated a version of the past based largely on colonial stereotypes and interpretations of Rwandan history, which supported the political ideology during that period.

The above clearly shows that what is taught to students has a lifelong impact on them and determines, to a large extent, their perception of life and their future decisions. This is precisely what informed the introduction of integrated genocide ideology studies so that a new generation of ‘clean minds’ is molded in the quest for a genocide ideology-free Rwanda.

Packaging of genocide ideology studies

According to Nehemiah Bacumuwenda, a pedagogical norms specialist, department of curriculum and pedagogical materials at Rwanda Education Board, the content in the integrated genocide ideology studies was reviewed in 2013 and started to be taught in schools in 2015 under the new competency-based curriculum.

He explains that genocide ideology studies are integrated in social studies alongside peace education.

“In lower primary, pupils are taught to love each other, while in upper primary students learn content related to the historical background of the Genocide,” he says.

Bacumuwenda adds that the integrated genocide ideology studies are explained progressively according to the level of maturity of students.

“From Senior One to Senior Five we teach democracy and good governance, genocide in the Rwandan concept, how genocide developed, comparison of genocides that have occurred in the world, consequences of genocide, ways of addressing its consequence, social responsibility  and reconstruction aligned with ‘Nd’umunyarwanda virtues,” he says.

Bacumuwenda notes that a positive outcome is expected from this curriculum where children will be able to avoid any kind of incitement towards genocidal tendencies.

Florence Abatoni, the peace building coordinator and a specialist in conflict management at Never Again Rwanda, says genocide studies and peace education are intended to change society’s attitude to that free from hatred and divisionism right away from a child’s formative years when they can be corrected.

“Some people are unchangeable when they are older, but the young ones are easy to shape or manipulate,” she says.

Abatoni says genocide ideology integrated content will enable students to have critical thinking skills as they cannot be easily duped into anything evil.

She says some young students who participated in the Genocide were ignorant, adding that genocide ideology studies, will give them capacity to sieve the message conveyed to them.

“With these studies, students are reminded of the punishments that come with such acts, which will keep them away from crimes against humanity.”

According to Vital Ntagengwa, the advocacy for compensation officer at CNLG, generally tendencies of genocide ideology have reduced.

He, however, says going by court statistics, genocide ideology is still visible, and thus the need to stop it through deliberate school programmes is very essential so that intermarriages and socialisation increase as a result.

“As a responsible body we always conduct school outreach-programmes from pre-primary and primary through secondary to university where we teach students to keep away from genocide ideologies that could even emanate from the parents,” he says.

According to research, cases of genocide ideology are more prevalent in border communities.

“Therefore, our primary focus is schools and universities near borders so that we eradicate genocide ideology rampant in those areas,” says Ntagengwa.

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Children visit Gisozi memorial site in Kigali. (Francis Byaruhanga)

 Educationists speak out

Faustin Mutabazi, the chief executive officer of the Education Bureau Consultancy based in Remera, Kigali, says education is an experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual.

Therefore in a technical sense, he says, genocide ideology integrated studies will deliberately transmit accumulated knowledge, skills and values of critical thinking and problem-solving from one generation to another.

“Education can play a great role in a given society for better or worse, as a means of conflict prevention or encouragement,” he says.

Mutabazi emphasises that the most effective method in the prevention of future genocide and to foster common citizenship is through education.

“It is in light of this that in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the Government of Rwanda started engaging in formal and informal public educational campaigns focusing on prevention of genocide and its ideology,” he says.

For Richard Kaweesi, the executive director, Brain Teasers’ Rwanda , an education company that builds children’s intellectual capacities in language proficiency, the campaign to end genocide ideology  through education is a very good move to fight genocide and its ideology.

“The result I expect from these studies is that it generates the sense of humanity among students so that they look at each other as fellow humans but not animals,” he says.

Kaweesi also says that if genocide studies are continually taught and assessed, it will yield good results as far as unity and reconciliation are concerned.

He says teachers should teach the youth about proper use of social media since it’s a new platform where genocide ideology is spread.

“Students should use social media critically and only put out content they have analysed. Otherwise, they will be culpable for their ignorance,” he says.

James Bigirimana, a teacher at Groupe Scolaire Nyagasozi in Nyanza District, says genocide ideology studies are not easily forgotten by students since they are taught as part of other subjects.

“It’s a more effective approach than teaching them at their homes or from other places. Integrated genocide ideology studies are less boring and easy to deliver,” he says.

He is optimistic that these studies will bring positive changes since students come from different areas with different mindsets.

“The studies will be a foundation for unity and a shift from the divisionism and ethnic hatred that characterized pre-genocide era youth and students.

“The studies will open their minds to appreciate history and make sure that it will not repeat itself,” he says.

Augustin Bushara,   a teacher at Saint Patrick Kicukiro, Kigali, explains that genocide ideology studies are taught as integral content in the political education, history, geography,  and general paper for those who do science subjects.

“We teach these studies generally alongside all aspects pertaining to genocide, the ideology  and how to fight against it. However, we don’t have teaching materials to help us in the processes,” he says.

“Some of us were not here during the Genocide, and therefore, we teach according to the little we know on Rwanda’s history and these events. Despite the available textbooks, we need more teaching tools like films and photos to be able to teach genocide ideology studies with evidence,” says Bushara.

The issue of Genocide ideology in schools came to the limelight in 2007, following a comprehensive report by senators that highlighted the different ways in which the ideology had manifested among students, mainly in high school.

The Genocide ideology, which at the time was also prevalent among students in higher learning institutions, manifested itself in different ways including leaflets circulated in schools, intimidation of survivors verbally and physically, while others used shared spaces like toilet walls to write divisive messages.

After that, several efforts were made by several players to ensure this vice is uprooted once and for all and different players have come on board to ensure this, be it government institutions and other actors from the civil society.

Students have their say

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Gashema

Sam Gashema, student, University of Rwanda College of Business and Economics

At university level, genocide ideology studies are taught in clubs, voice of peace forums and Never Again programmes. I am certain that the impact of these clubs will be positive. A time will come when genocide ideology will be at zero rate and all Rwandans, specifically students are unified in one spirit of togetherness. This is always taught to us when we are in these clubs.

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Inyamibwa

Valentie Inyamibwa, student, College de Bethel, Ruhango

We learn genocide ideology studies through history and political education, especially when we are learning African and European history. They teach us more about the socialisation and governance that marked the politics of Rwanda from pre-colonial period to date. Through this, we are able to appreciate the factors that caused the Genocide. We are hopeful that we will be able to build our country despite the bad history.

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Uwimpuhwe

Joyeuse Uwimpuhwe, S6 student, Stella Matutina SS

Through genocide ideology studies we have been enlightened on matters relating to the unique history of our country. Education was previously used as a tool in teaching divisionism, sectarianism and hatred. However, these days we have an education that teaches love among us, which will impact future generations positively.  The unity that was undone by the colonialists will be restored again.

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Bella Princes

Bella Princess, S2 student, Wellspring Academy

We learn genocide ideology studies through political science, history and sometimes in geography. Our teachers tell us to be focused and desist from bad acts. With these studies, I think my fellow students will be able to keep away from genocide ideology that could be spread from parents, relatives or anyone else around us.