In the halcyon days when education was education and not something that a computer game could sneer at, I joined the class of a select few. These were a different species from the mortals that trod refugee camps, those days, known as Abasiniya.
In the refugee camps of Uganda in the 1960s, when Umusiniya (one) passed, a hush always fell over any group of people in conversation. People started throwing furtive glances at you and whispering: “That’s the son/daughter of Kanaka. Isn’t that father a lucky man?”
Of course Abasiniya were simple mortals who had joined secondary school but those were different times. Then education was not force-fed into us, as it is to you Rwandan kids of today; and only a lucky few could access it.
So, with that reverence bestowed upon us lucky ones, we strove not to disappoint. It was a responsibility of no mean magnitude because if you happened to disappoint, to be discontinued, for instance, it would be woe unto you! The collective shame that Rwandan refugees felt would overwhelm you.
Overnight, from hero you would turn into the laughingstock of all the refugee camps; a villain. The camps in Uganda included Nshungerezi and Nyakivara (Rwandanised “Lake Valley”!) in Ankole, Kamwenge and Gahunge in Toro and Kyangware in Bunyoro, all in south-western/western Uganda.
Everybody necessarily knew every single Rwandan “senior-secondary school” student! (“Senior” being the word from which the students derived their hallowed name).
When you dropped out of school, you had nowhere to hide except lose yourself in the city as a mayibobo or toil in some tea or sugarcane plantation.
Or else, whenever you were sighted anywhere, an elder would call out: “Niko sha, son of Kanaka, you opted for banana brew in place of books! Daughter of Kanaka, you could not resist the urge to start getting pregnant!”
Those who joined the armed struggle in the bushes of Rwanda in 1990-1993 and then suddenly developed cold feet know the experience – I suppose, as mine (feet, I mean!) could not allow me to dare cross the western Kenya border, in the first place!
Anyway, whoever deserted the fighting force was hounded out of wherever they tried to hide in the refugee camps, so mortified was every refugee.
So, back to education, we didn’t want to be rejects of our society and we read like our very lives depended on it – which it did, actually, as without a certificate there practically was no future.
Similarly, this should be the principle that guides our G4, today’s generation. For it is true too that the future will belong to those with the skills to grapple with it.
It won’t be enough to think that the land can be exploited for wealth, if you are lucky to inherit it. Nor will it be enough to bury yourself in computer games, for those born in well-to-do families, and hope to somehow make it.
Every individual will need the solid base of education in this knowledge-explosion world.
But sweat not, our G4. If you are allergic to books because reading gives you a headache but can be a sucker for computer games once on a computer, I’ll ease your toil. Uncle Ingina (Unkie) only needs a computer savvy youth to partner with and it’s off to business with your pleasure.
For instance history is a subject you look at and your stomach begins to churn. You would like to know Rwanda well but the mere thought of learning History “sucks”.
Well, put your heart at rest. Unkie is going to make the experience of studying a joyride for you.
Now a history lesson is going to be like “Grand Theft Auto”, with a difference. The difference being that you’ll be shaping the way you learn history.
You will be there as Banyoro invade Rwanda, for instance, as they did not come once but twice. As they pursue you from the north, for instance, you’ll be there to dodge their arrows and rescue your comrades until you halt them at Gatsata, here in Kigali, and pursue them in turn.
You’ll be there when German explorers come and colonise Rwanda; when the allied forces send them packing and the UN installs Belgians. You’ll be in the thick of Belgians’ colonialism; of independence; the Kayibanda and Habyarimana regimes; the war and genocide, where you’ll save victims; the final triumph of true Rwandans over all these dark forces in July 1994. You’ll relive/live these glorious past 20 years of rebirth till this 9th day of February 2014.
Will it be a lesson you’ll never forget or will it!
If you think Unkie is in senility dreamland, punch ‘Czechoslovakia 38-89’ into Google and see what comes up. Who says my G4 partner and I cannot make ‘Rwanda 1400-2014’?