Teachers fear teaching genocide subject in class, Bizimana says

Civic education training – locally known as Itorero – for history teachers is set to be held annually in a bid to tackle the issue of educators fearing to teach genocide-related history, the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide (CNLG) has said.  

The Commission’s Executive Secretary, Jean Damascene Bizimana made the remarks on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 while responding to issues that the senatorial standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security identified in the commission’s annual activity report for 2018/2019.

Lack of training of teachers in history is one of the concerns that the committee had identified.

Bizimana said that the first ever Itorero for history teachers in secondary schools countrywide was concluded in Nyanza District last week.

Dubbed Indemyabigwi (people who nurture legends), the training was organised through a partnership between the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), Rwanda Education Board, CNLG, the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, and National Itorero Commission among other parties.

“One of the resulting resolutions that MINEDUC agree with is that such an ‘Itorero’ [civic education event] should be held every year. It should be included in planning and budgeting so that more teachers can be trained.

“We organised the training for three reasons; First, it was realised that in the talks that our staff provide especially in secondary schools, teachers who impart genocide history are young,” Bizimana said indicating that most of them are aged between 30 and 40.

“Being young implies that there is knowledge they do not have on the facys about the Genocide against the Tutsi,” he said, adding that having insufficient knowledge scares makes them keep away from the subject.

Second, he said, it is the sensitivity of genocide and its history.

“When a person is not confident [of their knowledge], they fear to talk about it [the history of the genocide] lest the words they say might make them entangled in genocide ideology crime. They rather keep quiet to avoid committing a crime unintentionally,” he said.

The third reason, Bizimana indicated, there are those [teachers] who fear to teach the history on genocide, yet they know facts or have knowledge about it.

“They do not want to get involved in that history.  They are teachers from families that committed the genocide, and their parents are imprisoned for genocide crimes,” he said.

“They do not want to provide courses on the [bad] past in which their fathers had part, while the classes they teach also students whose parents or relatives were killed by the teachers’ fathers. Some do not even agree with the punishment that their father was given,” he said.   

He also said that there are genocide survivors who are history teachers but choose to skip some topics in order to avoid hurting the students who did not have a role in the Genocide – because their parents are the ones who participated in the Genocide.

Going forward, he said that they also plan to train school managers including head teachers, and directors of studies and discipline as they are the ones who guide studies.”

The senators welcomed the move, but called for more efforts to make teachers deliver to students factual history about the genocide in a constructive way.


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