As Rwanda marks 22 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, it is important to recognise the immense gains the country has recorded in the unity and reconciliation process. For instance, the education sector that was prior to the Genocide characterised by divisionism, is accessible to all Rwandan children today.
To consolidate these gains and the opportunities the sector presents, stakeholders, including students, educationists and parents, agree that all Rwandans should continue to propagate messages of unity and reconciliation among the population to completely uproot vices, like the Genocide ideology or divisionism of any kind.
They call for a need to join efforts, build on the current progress to ensure every Rwandan prospers and attains their development goals.
The call follows concerns that some unscrupulous people who are not happy seeing Rwandans living in harmony, are trying to recruit some students to get involved in promoting the Genocide ideology.
The issue of Genocide ideology in schools came to the limelight in 2007, following a comprehensive report by senators that highlighted the different ways in which the ideology had manifested among students, mainly in high school.
The Genocide ideology, which at the time was also prevalent among students in higher learning institutions, manifested itself in different ways including leaflets circulated in schools, intimidation of survivors verbally and physically, while others used shared spaces like toilet walls to write divisive messages.
After that, several efforts were made by several players to ensure this vice is uprooted once and for all and different players have come on board to ensure this, be it government institutions and other actors from the civil society.
Dr Joseph Nkurunziza, the president and co-founder of Never Again Rwanda, a human rights and peace-building organisation, says that the Genocide left Rwandans nursing wounds, with many orphans and widows, plus ethnic divisionism, “which required mechanisms that would ensure that the young generation is equipped to face these challenges head-on”.
Never Again Rwanda was started in 2002 by a group of university students to promote sustainable peace, tolerance among the young generation as a means of preventing a reoccurrence of the Genocide.
“For us to build sustainable peace and development, we needed to have a youth devoid of Genocide ideology, and with the right mindset to build a solid foundation for upright thinking to help ensure a firm foundation for the country,” he explains.
He believes that the Genocide ideology among students is adopted from parents, educationists, and those who committed the Genocide, who may be connected to the children in one way or another.
“The problem occurs when Genocide perpetrators are not repentant and do not confess their crime and change for the better. Those who have not done that, continue to promote its ideology instead,” he says.
In addition, there are foreign nations or international institutions that have continued to assist those who committed the genocide, by even giving them incentives to promote the ideology.
“That means there are people who are not happy with the steps taken by Rwandan leadership that took the first step to stop the Genocide and, as a result, they are still supporting the Genocide perpetrators. Stopping the Genocide is victory over the perpetrators,” he says.
He notes that there is a campaign by some scholars to undermine Rwanda’s achievements against Genocide perpetrators and planners, and advises students to beware of such Genocide apologists. He urges parents and teachers as well as all concerned skakeholders to work together to take students and youth on the right path as far as the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is concerned.
Nkurunziza says Never Again Rwanda equips the youth with leadership and mediation skills, adding that there are so far 84 Never Again clubs in schools and 20 clubs for the school graduates working with communities. He says these clubs have been crucial in uprooting the Genocide ideology among the youth.
Leonard Gapasi is the director of Nyange Secondary School in Ngororero District, one of the schools where students stood up against genociders by refusing to be divided along ethnic lines. Some of the students lost their lives as a result of the patriotic act in the years following the end of the liberation struggle.
Gapasi says though there is no Genocide ideology case registered at the school in years, the school management continues to sensitise the students and promotes unity among them. He says, however, that the current crop of students at the school were either born during or after the Genocide, with no knowledge of what happened in 1994.
In 1997, Nyange Secondary School students refused to heed the Interahamwe militiamen orders to be separated according to ethnic lines. This infuriated the Interahamwe who reacted by shooting at the students leaving six of them dead, while many others were left with permanent wounds.
“Those people who lived through this ideology might be the ones contaminating our children. That’s where we should examine properly,” Gapasi notes. He says a school is like a home, where teachers are like parents to the children.
“Once we have embraced this concept, I think a child would not wish evil towards the other,” he argues. He calls on older Rwandans to teach their children good values and ensure they are not fed with ethnic ideology and divisionism.
Rev Fr Pierre Celestin Rwirangira, the principal of Indatwa n’Inkesha School (former Groupe Officiel de Butare (GSOB), says Rwandans have started to understand the importance of peace and living in harmony. He says the Genocide ideology in schools is fuelled by older people, including teachers.
“School should teach students Rwandan values and patriotism. Besides, students are at school to earn an education that will help improve their lives and serve their country better,” he says. He says before the Genocide, some students never had opportunities to continue with their studies because of sectarianism and ethnic discrimination, which is not the case today. “Therefore, students should take advantage of the opportunities presented by the government (especially equal access to education) and shun Genocide ideology and concentrate on their studies,” he says.
The Executive Secretary of National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), Fidèle Ndayisaba, is aware that more needs to be done to fully eradicate the Genocide ideology among Rwandans. He challenges all Rwandans to promote what unites them rather than looking for what divides them. He urges every Rwandan to protect children against the Genocide ideology, calling on teachers to guide students who might be intoxicated with this ideology.
“Teachers should watch students’ behaviour closely, monitor writings or any signs that might fuel divisionism. Explain to those with an attitude of the Genocide ideology to ensure it is uprooted,” says Ndayisaba.