Rwandan children will no longer be ‘breastfed’ on genocide ideology and ethnic division as was the case in schools in the past, the Minister for Education, Papias Malimba Musafiri, has said.
Musafiri was speaking on Wednesday evening as the Ministry of Education remembered its 77 former employees known to have been killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Musafiri said that, for the Genocide to be executed to the magnitude of killing over one million people in just 100 days, students killing their teachers or teachers killing their students, the ideology had long been taught among children, especially in schools.
He said that schools are vulnerable targets where negative ideologies can easily be nurtured, mainly among those at a tender age.
He observed that the “Politique d’équilibre,” a political system which gave privileges to Hutu and excluded Tutsi in schools, was a symbol of narrow-minded leadership.
Hutu students were given to over 80 per cent of places in schools then.
Such an education system ‘breast-fed’ children with genocide ideology, and did not contribute to the welfare of Rwanda, resulting in the Genocide, said the minister.
A study conducted by Ibuka, the umbrella of Genocide survivors associations, and the National Commission for the fight against Genocide (CNLG) in 2010 showed that more educated people behaved inhumanely during the Genocide than less educated or semi-literate compatriots.
The study revealed that 59.1 per cent of citizens who had only attended primary school shielded Tutsi during the Genocide, while only 8.3 per cent of those with secondary school education offered to hide the Tutsi.
The figures decreased even further to just 5.6 per cent among university graduates.
The Ministry of Education and experts in Rwanda’s history contend that the educated people played a big role in the preparation and planning of the Genocide.
Musafiri said that education based on the colonial ideology became a conduit of genocide ideology from colonialism to the first Republic, then to the second Republic and culminating into the Genocide.
“Now, we are happy that we have a government that has managed to break that chain. And, we are also happy that the education policy we have today is good and based on Rwandan values and culture. A policy that avails education for all, without any discrimination,” he said.
“Such education opportunities are not intended to make children ‘breastfeed’ on hate ideologies, it is to offer education that builds humanity, again starting from youth, and children,” he said.
Isaac Munyakazi, the Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education, said genocide ideology, denial and trivialisation remain serious challenges which need to be fought.
“Teachers and parents in particular have a major responsibility to understand and educate children against genocide ideology, trivialisation and denial. Our children should acquire education that is suitable for the Rwanda we desire, free of genocide ideology,” he said.
Destruction of Rwanda’s values in the past
Professor François Masabo, a senior researcher at Centre for Conflict Management at the University of Rwanda, observed that the Genocide against the Tutsi was committed with rare wickedness, where for example teachers killed their students or students killed their teachers.
Rwanda as a country had lost its values and culture because of education failure to foster unity among Rwandans in schools, families, churches and political parties.
According to Masabo, in 1973, Tutsi students, who were the minority, were expelled from school as a result of ethnic discrimination.
About 82 per cent of schools were owned by the Catholic Church then.
Giving his testimony, Justin Hakizimana, a survivor, who spoke on behalf of the deceased employees, recalled how he ‘was made to repeat primary six for five years yet he was bright.’
He said he had to switch to a private school to be promoted.
But the devil of the former regime’s ethnic discriminatory education policy, followed him until he dropped out of school.
Hakizimana resumed his secondary studies after genocide, studying up to university eventually graduating with a bachelors’ degree in accountancy.
“A Tutsi had no place in this country. We enrolled in primary school, but promotion to secondary schools, was a struggle,” he said, adding that even the few who would graduate, would enroll in low-value courses.