TEACHER'S MIND : Survivors need more educational guidance

THE idea of setting up the Fund for the Support to Genocide Survivors (FARG) was a very commendable step considering what has been achieved since this support system was established over ten years ago. On Tuesday 13 April, 2010, The New Times newspaper published a story about how over 17,000 survivors have been able to complete their university education and another 39,000 are in upper secondary because of FARG.

THE idea of setting up the Fund for the Support to Genocide Survivors (FARG) was a very commendable step considering what has been achieved since this support system was established over ten years ago.

On Tuesday 13 April, 2010, The New Times newspaper published a story about how over 17,000 survivors have been able to complete their university education and another 39,000 are in upper secondary because of FARG.

However, FARG’s Executive Secretary pointed out that some survivors have dropped out of school for various reasons. One of the reasons he cited was that, they had to return home to look after their younger siblings.

The problems faced by the 1994 Genocide survivors are quite numerous and complex. However, society should not give up on them and more so, it encourage them not to give up on themselves.

Education is often touted as a key to success. Education is a very crucial aspect of life that is actually considered a fundamental human right for which all should have access.

For this reason, the efforts by FARG ought to be supplemented with sufficient psycho-social assistance to ensure that students on this programme do not consider dropping out.

Many a time, the issue of psychosocial support arises only when students are traumatised. But this does not have to be the case. These students are often living in a social vacuum with no family and this greatly impacts their attitudes and academic performance. 

Even before we look at those who drop out, a good number of survivors find it difficult to cope in class thus affecting their performance. Such students are often resigned to their fate and carry fatalistic attitudes towards education.

They gradually convince themselves that they cannot compete with other students in class due to their problems.
Although their situation is understandable, it should not be considered a done deal. These survivors can indeed compete and perform very well if and when they receive proper guidance and counselling from different people.

In life we all have problems but resilience is what counts. We cannot change the past but we can act on the present to change the future. These troubled students need to be told of the benefits of education.

Survivors should be urged to compete for academic excellence without being complacent that there is a fund to pick their education bill. They should aim for the highest levels of excellence and not just the points set by FARG (which is often lower than the standard).

In any education setting, these orphans can make friends who can attempt to fill the void of family by acting as sisters, brothers or simply confidants. The school authorities must also give them all the due assistance so that they do not feel left out or victimised.

Students funded by FARG should be made to understand that being beneficiaries of the fund is a second chance in life that they should not misuse. They should use it as a stepping stone to shake of the burden that the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi bequeathed onto them by excelling in education and going on to achieve better things in life.

During my school days, it was very common for parents or guardians to remind their children how poor they were and how that child had to work hard to achieve academic excellence.

Actually this led to a common saying in the Ugandan education circles where hard working students were often mocked by others for “reading like orphans”.

The message therein was that orphaned students had to work harder than other students in order to achieve the academic success that would guarantee a better life.

This and other lessons have to be passed on to the survivors if their school dropout rates are to be reduced.

ssenyonga@gmail.com

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