With the ideology of ethnic hatred continually reinforced and disseminated to the general public through radio, television broadcasts, print media, and in public meetings, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi became inevitable.
The seeds had long been planted in our schools, churches and in the confines of our houses, and the vicious call to “weed out the cockroaches” was just the last nail on the coffin. Had all educators stood their moral ground in fighting genocide ideology, perhaps we would be telling a different story today.
In order to fully grasp the gist of this article, two things must be made clear from the onset: one, an educator is not just a teacher but anybody whose conscious or unwitting actions influence behaviour. This loosely translates to all of us- teachers, religious leaders, parents...Second, educators, in whatever capacity, are opinion shapers, the sower.
In all honesty, the media’s role in amplifying the fear and genocidal ideology that had already been planted and silently circulating throughout the Hutu population is indubitable. This begs the question: who had planted the seeds of doom way before the media took its toll on the matter? Of course educators: parents, teachers, you… If we are to effectively eradicate the genocide ideology, we must leverage the role of educators.
World over, educators are intellectualised as agents of transformative change in nation building, identity construction and peace and reconciliation by imparting values that espouse peace- including tolerance, recognition and respect, as well as a range of skills such as critical thinking, negotiation, compromise, collaboration and interpersonal relationships among learners.
Whether you know it or not, young people listen to what you say and read even what you do not verbalize. If education wasn’t such a crucial part of the puzzle, Rwanda would not have been able to rebuild and become a modern hub of progress and development, putting in place social, political and economic systems that are grounded in national unity and reconciliation – with education reforms playing a central role. It naturally follows that educators are still our best shot at combatting genocide ideology.
From ashes- dismantled institutions with a profound lack of qualified teachers, a huge pool of orphaned children, insufficient funds and inaccurate textbooks- Rwanda has slowly but surely transformed its education system from one based on standard rote memorization where seeds of hatred are sown, to one that inspires discussion and a spirit of critical thinking and analysis- an approach that seeks to redress the biases taught by the genocidal regime, as well as prepare young people to thoughtfully and constructively enter the workforce.
Additionally, it has worked tenaciously in training the teachers to impart knowledge using the right methodology. Why not calibrate everyone to the same footing in this fight?
That being said, apart from adhering to the curriculum in teaching aspects of genocide that have already been incorporated in various subjects, educators must also find ways to incorporate critical thinking, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. We must repeatedly proclaim peace and insist on the value of life. There is need to teach the youths economic values and lifelong skills on coexistence and sustainability.
The youths must be taught to preoccupy themselves with giving back to the community and making Rwanda a better country. Educators can easily help the youth achieve this because they are voices of influence in the society. Believe me, the media would have had nothing to flaunt around had the youths been anchored on a well-grounded mainstay!
The scars from the past are indelible; educators should steadfastly steer learners toward tranquillity; toward a developed country where humanity is sacred. We must do everything within our capacity and strength as educators to counter genocide ideology.