Monday, 7th of April 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the start of the Rwanda genocide. The grade 7 learners of the Holy Cross Convent embraced the learning opportunity of atrocities whereby more than 800 000 people, mostly Tutsi men, women and children, were systematically hunted down and murdered over a period of 100 days.
The outreach programme organized by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) focused on remembering those that lost their lives in the events of 1994, the Rwanda genocide. The task of confronting the causes and consequences of genocide is imperative for people everywhere.
The educational initiative included a video screening on survivor testimonies from the SURF website.
During the 10 minute video screening, the learners who were comprised of 70% girls and 30% boys totalling to the amount of 50 learners all within the age group of 11- 13 years of age, watched attentively and sympathised when the survivors gave their testimonies on genocidal acts that they experienced e.g. one survivor testified on how she “was forced to drink blood from dead people”. This made the audience (the learners cringe and make sounds that sympathised with the survivor testimony).
In a survey done by UNIC, the awareness level of the learners ranged from 1-2, (indicating that most of them have never heard about the topic). As part of the centre’s commitment to raise awareness about genocide the UNIC team’s lesson plan provided a brief overview of the Rwanda Genocide and the types of behaviour and actions which may lead to genocide. The lesson plan also outlined to teach learners about the need to take responsibility for any type of abuses and to speak out for those with no voice.
The learner’s profound interest on the subject brought up following questions: Where there any white people in Rwanda during the genocide?
What is an ethnic group?
What is a Tutsi?
Why were they fighting?
After the Q & A from the audience, the principal of the School Mrs Kohlberg, asked the learners what impact the presentation had on them and why they think we should remember this event. A female learner replied, “so that when we grow up, we can are able to prevent such future genocides from happening”.
The feedback UNIC received from teachers is that it serves as a good complement to teaching about the Holocaust, in terms of placing in a contemporary context the continuing need to teach the importance of prevention of genocide.