The history of itorero

Students doing military drills during Itorero. File.

Itorero was started by King Gihanga Ngomijana. He was the first King of Rwanda. It dates back to pre-colonial times, and started with the aim of teaching Rwandans their values. It would promote peace and unity among Rwandans. It would teach boys above 14 years of age how to hunt, protect their homes when they became men, and to love their country (patriotism). The girls, on the other hand, had urubohero. They would learn how to take care of their husbands in the future, and weave baskets and mats.

With the coming of the Europeans, things changed. Itorero stopped because the Europeans saw that Rwandans had unity through it. They wanted to divide Rwandans. And it helped them divide Rwandans into Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. They also promoted hatred among Rwandans. In 1962, Rwanda got independence but ethnic tension remained.  And this is what caused the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the Rwandan government brought Itorero back. It was hard to bring back a lost culture, but Rwandans where happy that their traditional school with additional values was back.  It also helped promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans. It helped the youth know their country’s values.  Now it is practiced in secondary schools.

The writer is a senior two student at Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare (GSOB). 

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