The horrific massacres that happened during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi left behind unspeakable challenges. One of them is genocide ideology.
This is why it is very important to have deeper scrutiny of such underlying factors such that what happened 25 years ago never happens again.
It is this concept that Rwanda Education Board provided a new school curriculum, alongside teaching materials with an aim of strengthening teachings about the history of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Having knowledge about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi makes it easier for young people to relate to their past. File.
This new curriculum, which was rolled out in 2015 allows for students to be equipped with knowledge about the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi as well as other genocides that happened elsewhere in the world such as the Holocaust.
The curriculum has a purpose of informing students about the cause of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and how it was planned and executed. It also enlightens them on how it was stopped and its consequences thereafter.
Joan Murungi, Head of curriculum, teaching and learning resources department at REB, says they have developed a model lesson for each subject, especially when it comes to the background of fighting against genocide ideology.
REB has also brought in the peace and valued education unit which covers the background on genocides in general, including aspects on reconciliation.
“In schools, there is always a way of embedding this topic (fighting against genocide ideology) at least with every subject. Just like with subjects such as history, there are also others that specifically dwell on addressing denial cases around the history of Rwanda in general,” Murungi says.
Joel Habimana, a head teacher at Bujyujyu high school in Rwamagana District, Eastern Province, says that, at school, they have included the topic in their lessons.
He also says they go to the extent of embedding this topic even under extra curriculum activities, adding that this gives students a wider platform to learn about their history.
Such lessons are vital for the young generation. And apart from just knowing their identity, the lessons also come with other benefits that are important in the life of a learner, he says.
For instance, he notes that by incorporating such topics in classroom lessons, students are facilitated to improve on their critical reasoning and analytical skills, including the capacity to solve problems which enables them to develop creative thinking.
This, according to him, is very beneficial noting that such skills are needed on the labour market nowadays.
Why it’s important for students to know the past
Habimana also says that, by teaching students about their history, it becomes easier for them to develop skills of being independent; including having the ability to conduct their own detailed research on this very history.
“History is a strong part of people’s lives for it influences their views. Having knowledge about this makes it easier for young people to relate with others, especially when it comes to building good relationships with them,” he says.
He adds that the students also get to understand their culture and what is expected of them when it comes to preserving this very culture.
“When this kind of teaching is introduced at an early stage, it helps them to grow up knowing what is required of them and what to do to protect their heritage,” Habimana says.
Murungi, on the other hand, says if one doesn’t know their history they don’t have a future, therefore, as young people, they need to understand their past; why the country went through all this and figure out what they can do to make sure that what happened never happens again.
If this isn’t instilled in them earlier, she says that children will not understand. She hence argues that there should be different ways and approaches for educators to ensure that learners understand their past.
“There is a need to cultivate the culture of tolerance, a good relationship in the minds of the young ones so that they grow up knowing what is required of them,” Murungi says.
According to Theoneste Ngiruwonsanga, a communication skills and disciplinary master in education at APPEC Remera Rukoma, a technical and vocational training school, when it comes to fighting against genocide ideology, it is taken as a very serious matter that is why it is taught as a single subject at their school.
He says that genocide ideology can affect not only young people but also the entire society; this is why it is vital to come up with proper mechanisms of ensuring that the message is well understood and passed on properly to the right people.
“Youth are the backbone of the country, in order to uphold the values of the country they have to be taught when they are still young so that they can grow up with a good character and also pass the same information to their offspring,” he says.
Apart from teaching this as a single subject, Ngiruwonsanga says. They have also created clubs concerning the same matter and that this helps students to continue fighting against other bad vices as well.
He notes that schools should create room for different platforms that advocate for unity and also focus on finding other ways of involving their students in conversations that promote peace.
Parents still have a role play
Ngiruwonsanga says that fighting genocide ideology should not only happen in schools because, parents, too, have a role to play in teaching their children about their past and helping them understand what their values should be.
Additionally, he says, with the help of local leaders, communities should also create different activities where young people can converge to learn about the country’s values and many other aspects that call for unity.
Diana Nawatti, the head teacher at Mother Mary Complex School in Kigali, believes that if everyone takes a role in educating the youth about fighting against genocide ideology, it will be easier to have a future with positive minds.
She says religion should also play its part in this since it’s even easier to reach out to many people in such big congregations.
“It’s very vital to encourage students to be united all the time. This can happen through organising different extra curriculum activities either inside or outside the school environment that tend to bring together students from different schools, where they can share different opinions, views, and different skills as well,” Nawatti says.
Irene’ Mizero, Chairman of Mizero Care Organisation
Youth should be taught the consequences of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. They should also grab the opportunity given to them by our leadership and rebuild a peaceful and prosperous country. I believe the youth with values and understanding will be a pillar to sustain what the country has achieved and build the Rwanda we want and deserve.
Honorine Uwase, parent
Parents, guardians and teachers who are teaching young people on the history of the country, should allow them to ask questions where they don’t understand. Being able to respond to them accordingly reduces their anxiety and curiosity.
Fabrice Kwizera, University student
It’s important for all the youth to participate in different dialogues, especially during this commemoration period, so that they can get to understand the story behind the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This can help them grasp everything they need to understand.
Francine Umugwaneza, student
On top of being told what happened, students should use the opportunity from writers who have published books concerning Genocide and read them. This is also important when it comes to the history of the country and at the same time improves their reading skills.