Survivors need our support and comfort

The second term of the school year is set to begin today. And this time again it comes on the back of the just concluded national week for mourning in remembrance of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis. There are indeed several Rwandans who survived the gruesome events of 1994 and are now enrolled in the school system.
Rwandan students back to class, life had to continue after the Genocide.
Rwandan students back to class, life had to continue after the Genocide.

The second term of the school year is set to begin today. And this time again it comes on the back of the just concluded national week for mourning in remembrance of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.

There are indeed several Rwandans who survived the gruesome events of 1994 and are now enrolled in the school system.

Some of them were young at the time of the Genocide and survived with physical and emotional injuries while others were left orphaned with their parents and relatives all killed.

There are also those who were adults by the time of the Genocide and had their education interrupted by the events of 1994 but have now returned to the school system to complete their studies.

All these people need our support and encouragement as they embark on their academic goals and objectives. The fact that they went through a very trying moment that left them physically and emotionally scared calls for a joint effort by all the stakeholders in the education system in order to provide them with a conducive academic environment.

It is quite common for the second term to begin with cases of students enduring spells of trauma since the mourning week often brings back the tough memories of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.

These unbearable memories often open unclosed wounds in their hearts, culminating in trauma.

Teachers should by now be aware of this problem and be in position to help such vulnerable students. It is actually quite resourceful for school authorities to know the type of students they have, their backgrounds and any problems they may be having.

If a child is an only orphan because of the Genocide then the school needs to assist such a child in all ways possible and help them fit in the school society.

There are several student clubs in most schools that are dedicated to helping any of their colleagues that may be having psycho-social problems related to the Genocide. Such clubs include AERG that brings together Genocide survivors in the school system.

The fact the members of this club share similar problems makes puts them in a better situation to comfort their colleagues.

Members of the Red Cross club in most schools always assist students who face trauma problems. I must add that these selfless students are doing a great job and need to be supported through more training to offer counselling services to their fellow students.

Health centres should also be ready to attend to any student who is brought for medical or psycho-social attention. 

At the same time, the Ministry of Education and all concerned school authorities and stakeholders should not give up the fight against Genocide ideology in schools.

Last year all teachers took part in solidarity camps where they were taught the history of Rwanda and how to fight the Genocide ideology in schools. It is therefore only fitting for them to put in practice all they learnt during those solidarity camps.

Teachers also ought to make an effort to be sensitive to the feelings of Genocide survivors by not carelessly uttering statements that may appear to belittle or negate the events of 1994.

This is a very important because the education system here is awash with teachers from outside Rwanda who may not be very familiar with the gravity of the Genocide and its impact. However this should not be an excuse to open wounds by speaking carelessly about it.

The bottom line is that some of the students we handle are vulnerable in several ways as a result of what they experienced in 1994 Rwanda Genocide and we as teachers are therefore expected to assist them to deal with their problem since a school is after all a second home.

And besides they cannot study well if they are troubled, so we need to comfort and support them so that they can be like other students and thus study equally well.

ssenyonga@gmail.com

 

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