It's a sunny day on Tuesday morning at peace and leadership institute in Nkumba, Burera District, Northern Province. About four hundred and sixteen executive secretaries are undergoing solidarity training, an informal education. Every morning, the trainees are greeted by nice scent air of nearby flowers standing a couple of metres away. The sun rising from the other direction is a consolation to the cold morning hours.
Every new day brings hope and the trainees are in jovial mood. They talk in low tones and laugh occasionally. Even a stranger to Nkumba centre can tell basing on the trainees’ beaming faces that all is well here.
In November last year, the government launched Itorero ry’Igihugu in a bid to re-introduce traditional methods in mitigating the country’s socio-economic challenges among other things.
This programme is coordinated by the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission countrywide (NURC). From this traditional school, people will be discussing issues like national unity and other social problems affecting the country directly.
I meet Claude Manzi, one of the executive secretaries attending the solidarity training. He says the training in essential because it is being used as chain for unity and reconciliation among other objectives.
“The idea of initiating Itorero was very positive. We learn many things about our history and culture. Remember, a country without culture is dead,” Manzi says in an interview last week.
He cuts a jovial figure, his eyes brighten. He believes that the solidarity trainings are putting back the country on road to development after the Genocide.
Théoneste Ntaganda is a teacher at Nyango primary School in Musanze district Northern Province. He says fortune has come in form of training.
He is undergoing the solidarity training at Musanze secondary school together with other teachers. The training covers three weeks.
“I encourage many Rwandans to participate in these trainings. They are helpful in a way that you get to know many new things geared at developing our country,” Ntaganda says.
Ntaganda didn’t know what Itorero was all about in the past. He used to think, like his colleagues that Itorero was a cultural troupe prepared for entertaining visitors.
“People used to call it center for entertainments where people would just go for fun,” Ntaganda says laughingly. His says his political, economy and social outlook is now new.
Ntaganda is among teachers selected from ‘Intore z’Abatarushwa’. He says when he was informed only one day before commencing the training, he had little expectations but he has now achieved a lot.
For Jean-Marie Vianney Ngaboyisonga, a teacher at Kalinzi primary School hailing from Musanze district. He has just completed his course and he tells The New Times that he was hurrying back home to encourage other teachers attend the training.
“Education does not have any limit. Besides, this kind of training touches important issues concerning our country,” Ngaboyisonga says emphatically. He says he too found the training unique compared to his earlier views about solidarity training.
“I thought we were going to train on traditional dances and other related fields but what surprised me are the lessons we get here,” Ngaboyisonga says in a low tone.
He reveals that government programs like unity and reconciliation, fighting genocide ideology or how to achieve vision 2020 are some of the topics covered.
“Fighting genocide ideology is anybody’s responsibility. But one should know what is genocide ideology in the first place before you guard it,” he stresses.
Jean-Claude Mbonimpa doubles as a priest and a head- teacher at Musanze primary School. To him, he thought to be a priest all you needed to know is Bible or walking the saint way.
He says he was surprised to see the government of national unity setting up such initiative that will harmonize Rwandans and burry the ugly past.
Claudine Mukandoli is a business woman living in Kimironko, Gasabo district. She too never knew what Itorero meant for Rwandans.
“I really wanted to know what all about Itorero was. It has been explained differently by many people in this area including News papers that Itorero is the RPF venture,” she says.
The question here remains; what will people achieve if they still have such mentality of misinterpreting things? What strategies can be used to let Rwandans know such values?
Northern Province Governor, Boniface Rucagu said in an interview that before western culture was imposed to Rwandans, people were united and divisionism basing on their ethnicity was unheard of.
After experiencing different challenges soon after the genocide, there is a need for the government of national unity to re-introduce relevant traditional practices.
“Itorero acts as healing process of broken hearts of many Rwandans through promoting culture, fighting genocide ideology and fostering the reconciliation process.
“It is the right time for people to forget their differences and work together in order to promote economic development,” Rucagu adds.
Government leaders says Community Development Policies are integrated and promoted in Itorero as the participation of different actors including civil society, private sector, institutions of high learning, and individuals since developed largely hinge on these factors.
It will also act as a key to renforce the national policy of decentralisation by providing for the effective participation of the community in the fight against poverty.
Many out comes can be seen from Itorero ry’Igihugu including designing individual and collective plans to meet their needs and solve their problems; implement those plans by drawing from the resources of the community.
“It’s a platform to discuss several aspects affecting the country such as good governance, justice in a broader sense, economic development and social welfare among others,” the mayor says.