This piece is a few days early. It shall be Heroes Day here in Rwanda on Sunday the 1st of February, so I guess that I have jumped the gun (excuse the lame pun please).
Every year, we troop to the national stadium in Remera, watch the brave men and women of our armed forces march, hear a few speeches from distinguished political leaders about the importance of ‘heroism’ and then go home to enjoy the public holiday with friends and family.
I will be the first to say that celebrating the lives, and deaths, of our heroes like Afande Fred, Mwami Rudahigwa, the students of Nyange Secondary School and the many soldiers who died fighting for the rights of ALL Rwandans is one of the most important things that any proud Rwandan must do; because by their deaths, we, as a nation, found life.
But here is the problem I face. While we celebrate the lives, and deaths, of the great men and women, who gave us a chance to enjoy the peace and prosperity that we are enjoying today, may be its time to celebrate the lives of the heroes who are still with us.
And anyway, what is a hero to you? Why do I ask this? Because only when you understand that there are many, many, unsung heroes who go through life, doing good deeds without the need for reward, shall we understand just how surrounded by these extraordinary folks we truly are.
I’m not a walking dictionary, so don’t feel offended by my definition of the word ‘hero’. To me, a hero is someone who lives their life for the service of others. He/she might not lose their life fulfilling their tasks, but to me their heroes nevertheless.
Rwanda is known as one of the few African nations where corruption is actually not a normal state of affairs. Well then, I’d call the police officer, local government official and ministerial worker a hero, if, despite the fact that their salaries might not be the best in the world, report to work everyday at the right time, well turned out, ready to be helpful, and refuse to take bribes.
Yes, refusing a bribe should be the normal state of affairs, but must not be easy to resist the temptation when you have a wife/husband and five children at home, all demanding for school fees. That, my friends is heroic.
What about the teachers who are educating the people who will drive this economy forward? Shouldn’t they be celebrated? I remember the folks who taught me in all the various stages of my education and the trouble I caused them.
If I had had my way, I’d have never gone to class, never picked up a book, never have learnt basic mathematics and, all in all, would have become a nuisance. But that’s not the path I trod.
The teachers, who would have got their salaries despite my absence from the classroom, made sure that I was in class. They lent a sympathetic ear to my gripes about school (I, rather, naively, thought that they couldn’t teach me anything I didn’t know already) and gave me good guidance; they invited me into their homes and called me their ‘friend’.
They went beyond their comfort zone to make sure I went out of school a better individual than I came in. I want to recognize the most important teacher I’ve ever had personally, Mrs Apophia Twine. She was the mentor and friend as I was struggling to finish my course at the National University.She was, and still is, a hero to me.
I believe that everyone has that certain somebody who they owe their very lives to. It might not have been a life or death situation, but you know that their input in your life gave you that springboard to all the successes that you are presently enjoying.
So, here is my suggestion; go to the Amahoro Stadium, celebrate our nation’s heroes…and then, if it’s still possible, call or visit that personal ‘hero’ of yours and truly appreciate them.