The Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) plans to train history teachers this academic year so that they deliver accurate Genocide-related studies to students.
The move comes after Ibuka – the umbrella organisation of genocide survivors’ associations, urged caution on the teaching of Genocide history in schools in order for students to get accurate facts and also teach them about the dangers of genocide ideology.
Jeanne d’Arc Baranyizigiye, in-charge of developing social studies and history programmes at Rwanda Education Board (REB), told Sunday Times that REB wants to train teachers so that they understand the country’s turbulent history and accurately deliver it to students in a way that will foster the unity and prosperity of Rwandans.
She said REB worked with scholars and researchers in Rwanda’s history and that they would continue to work with them to train teachers so that they get required skills.
Accounts from Genocide survivors show that the Tutsi were discriminated against, persecuted in schools, were called enemies, snakes, oppressors of Hutu. Yet, all that was said while Tutsi were only given few places in schools, as over 80 percent of the places were reserved to Hutu in what was called ‘Politique d’Équilibre’ whereby Hutu occupied majority of places in schools and at work, mainly in the public service. The few Tutsi who would make it to secondary school were also expelled; with some changing identity to pursue their studies.
Ibuka President, Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu said the testimonies of discrimination and killings against the Tutsi and some Hutu who hid Tutsi to save them during the Genocide, should be told to students so that they know what happened.
However, Ibuka and MINEDUC contend that most of the teachers of history lived during the period when Genocide ideology, ethnic discrimination and divisionism were prevalent in schools, and some were involved in such. So, how will such teachers deliver genocide-related history as it should?
Speaking during the night vigil for the 23rd commemoration of the genocide, Dusingizemungu said that it was good that MINEDUC included Genocide studies in its curriculum last year, but noted that the subject should be dealt with due care.
“There are teachers who lived during the genocide ideology in schools and as a result, it would be difficult for them to make the right decision while teaching genocide related history to students,” he said.
The Minister for Education, Dr. Papias Musafiri said that it is good that there is curriculum and other academic tools needed for teaching history, but noted that they are not enough, pointing to the need for qualified teachers to implement it.
“Those who will implement that are our teachers, and a large section of them lived in such history [of genocide ideology and ethnic divisionism] and were taught it. Which means that it will take a long time for it to get completely eradicated from them,” he said.
He said that the current education policy in Rwanda gives education opportunities to all, opportunities that build humanity, starting from childhood.
However, he expressed that there have been gaps in history teaching because of lack of a standard textbook, pointing out that they are reviewing [it] so that such history gets taught accurately.
REB’s Baranyizigiye said: “The history about the Genocide against the Tutsi is a delicate aspect because all the people, including teachers and students, did not learn about it at the same time.
“There are the teachers who lived during the genocide and even those who participated in or committed it. And there are others who lived after the genocide. This implies that they do not have the same perceptions about it. So, dealing with it needs caution,” she said.
Prof. Deo Byanafashe, a historian told Sunday Times that “first, those who are in charge of developing academic materials should write books by correcting what went wrong in teaching Rwanda’s history in the past, and then distribute such books in schools, then get used by competent teachers to educate students.”
To ensure effectiveness of the programme, Minister Musafiri called for partnership between the Ministry and NGOs working in Rwanda’s education sector as well as churches so that education about Genocide history and fighting its ideology go beyond schools and reach children in families and other places.
Elements covered in the history
The history covers Rwanda before, during and after colonialism; Rwanda before, during and after the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, its causes and consequences and how the country managed to rebuild itself.
She said that such history courses are part of examination as core subjects both in schools and national exams.
Materials to be used include books, films about the genocide, [visiting] genocide memorial sites (centres), survivors’ testimonies, and photographs among others.