Genocide ideology steadily fading from schools

The 1994 Genocide against the  Tutsi left many young survivors not only alone but also a target of occasional threats by genocide ideologists. These acts, words and behaviour are generally what constitute “genocide ideology,”
Students take part in the Walk to Remember march on Sunday. Education Times/ Timothy Kisambira.
Students take part in the Walk to Remember march on Sunday. Education Times/ Timothy Kisambira.

The 1994 Genocide against the  Tutsi left many young survivors not only alone but also a target of occasional threats by genocide ideologists. These acts, words and behaviour are generally what constitute “genocide ideology,” writes Jean de la Croix Tabaro

Teachers, education officials, students and local leaders believe that the issue of genocide ideology in schools is weakening following the mechanisms that were put in place to curb it. However this is a continuous process aimed at ensuring that never again should such evil ideas be allowed to develop, especially in the minds of the youth.

The 1994 Genocide against Tutsi left many young survivors not only alone but also aware and fearful of the occasional threats and jeers.

In their respective schools, some classmates and teachers terrified survivors by taunting them and harassing them with threats of a repeat of what happened during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. These acts, words and behaviour are generally what constitute “genocide ideology”.

The Rwandan laws relating to this crime put in the category of genocide ideology the speeches, documents, threatening words and other public acts aimed at exterminating or inciting others to exterminate a group of people based on tribe, religion, colour, sex, among others.

Since 2005, these problems started to become a big concern in schools to the extent that in 2007, a parliamentary committee was tasked to carry out an assessment of the problem in our schools.

The Committee issued a report early 2008 according to which genocide ideology was detected in 84 of the 637 secondary schools in Rwanda at the time.

In these schools, this ideology was characterised by anonymous text messages and leaflets that were circulated calling Tutsis ‘snakes’, ‘insects’ and other despicable names. In some extreme cases, lists of targeted students were even compiled. Others would talk of the fact that if they were given a chance they would continue with the Genocide.

Josianne Uwonkunda, 23, an alumnus of Remera-Rukoma High School in Kamonyi, Southern Province where she graduated in 2006 recalls “Our discipline master was heard saying, I hunted you during the Genocide, and you will not escape me even here.”

Uwonkunda, a Genocide survivor is now thankful that she does not have to endure such things at the university.

Measures to curb genocide ideology 

Besides a law that in 2008 enforced punishment of the crime of genocide ideology by awarding it a jail sentence of up to 25 years, then 10 years in 2012, local leaders and security organs took serious measures to uproot this incendiary ideology.

In July 2011, Gatsibo district leaders carried out investigations to find out what was wrong with Groupe Scolaire Muhura and decided to dismiss all the staff.

Ambrose Ruboneza, the Mayor of the district, told Education Times, that “since 2007, genocide ideology remained prevalent in this school. We could not identify who really was behind it. We finally established that there would be individuals who were spreading odeology in the school and we decided to clean the house”.

According to the mayor, they decided to relocate all the teachers and other staff of the boarding school. “From the accountant to the cooks and the night guards, all were dispersed to different institutions in the district,” he said “Only the head master was maintained there because he was new and was not contaminated,” he recalls.

The mayor can now confirm that the former employees were the cause because since they were replaced they have not registered cases of genocide ideology. “I understand that the new staff members are now focusing on  decent education for the children” he asserts.

On top of the vigilance of other institutions, the education officials also say a new curriculum migh thave helped.

Janvier Gasana, the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Education Board in charge of Quality and Standards (Inspectorate) in secondary schools told Education Times, that through civic education, students learn the history of Rwanda and are nurtured into responsible citizens.

“Besides, we have a couple of initiatives such as unity and reconciliation clubs, Itorero, etc. We also keep training head teachers on how they can keep supervising their schools to detect any sign of genocide ideology”.

Epaphrodite Kanyamibwa, the Head teacher of Groupe Scolaire Simbi in Huye District, Southern Province realised that unity and reconciliation club in his school have helped shape students. He said the students are the ones who run the club and interact with teachers, which helps to also build trust amongst them.

The Minister of Culture and Sports, Protais Mitali, also said he had not heard about any genocide ideology case for some time. He added, however, that some cases emerge during the Genocide commemoration week.

According to the police spokesman, Assistant Commissioner of Police Theos Badege, Genocide ideology is becoming a rare crime in our files, but all the Rwandans still need to be vigilant to maintain the momentum”.

 

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