“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again,” runs a quote by Maya Angelou, an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist.
Rwanda is one of the countries that have a very difficult history. A history of the bloody 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in which more than a million people died with ethnicity at the centre of the conflict.
Twenty-six years have now passed, and the government has invested a lot in a number of measures to see that a peaceful society is built.
One of the things that the government has invested in is education. This is in various ways, sensitization and academic education.
In Rwandan schools, genocide studies have been taught to children for some time, as the government looks to educate them about the dangers of ethnic differences and other kinds of inhumane practices, as one of the ways to see that such things like the genocide never happen again.
Today, Rwandan schools have genocide studies in the school curriculum, in social studies, and history, while for those students that don’t do arts subjects can have genocide information in clubs in schools.
As a topic that is associated with gory details and a number of other inhumane things that rocked families and individuals in Rwanda, genocide studies haven’t been coming easy for some teachers in the past.
Alexis Nkomezi, the headteacher of Ecole Primaire Kamuhoza in Nyarugenge district city of Kigali reflected on the challenges teachers have to beat to effectively educate the children about the genocide against the Tutsi,
“For a primary school child who was born after the genocide, when you tell them about Hutu or Tutsi, there are some who don’t even know. There are parents that don’t explain to their children, and so, there can be a child who thinks that a Hutu means a killer, and that is really wrong. And so, children need a lot of explanations, and that is a challenge for teachers,” he said.
To deal with some of these issues, in January this year, the Rwanda Education Board in partnership with other institutions conducted a 10 days-civic education programme meant to empower history teachers in terms of deep knowledge around the history of Rwanda; in particular the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in 1994.
Bringing together about almost 1623 secondary teachers of secondary schools across the country, the Rwanda Education Board had to train the teachers, not only to teach the history narrative, but also empower them in terms of confidence in their profession.
This training is one of the important things that have been lately done in enhancing genocide studies, given the challenges the teachers were facing in telling the children about the history.
The need for parents to play a role in educating their children about the past
Though sensitizations can assist the teachers to do their work well, some parents who don’t do the basic work of telling the children about the history present a gap that requires a lot of effort for teachers to bridge.
Nkomezi urged that parents should tell the truth to their children, even if it is hard sometimes.
“Sometimes it is difficult, for instance, when a child’s father is in prison due to genocide crimes, it is hard for the family to tell the child. However, truth is always required,” he said.
“Truth is important in the fight against evil, and ensuring that it will not happen again.”
The need for more books
Studies about the genocide against the Tutsi are within the curriculum in schools, and students start from around primary four to study about it, and it continues up to secondary school.
One of the issues on the table concerning these studies is that there are not so many books for it,
“We have books, but they are not many,” said Claude Gisore, the headteacher of Groupe Scolaire Kiyanzi in Kirehe District.
The other question is how science students are able to learn about the genocide, having no subjects like history or humanities in their combinations. However, Gisore explained that this can be solved in anti-genocide clubs at school where such information can still be shared.
On a positive note, international schools are also able to teach genocide studies, fitting them into their Cambridge programs.
‘The curriculum is flexible and suitable, we are able to adapt the local programs which suit our learners in each particular country, we decided to adopt the Rwandan history in our history subjects which basically focuses on Rwandan genocide as a major topic in both primary and secondary levels,” said Diana Nawatti, the School Principal of Mother Mary International School.