December 30, 2019

1,800 History Teachers Undergo Refresher Course on Official History Narrative

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Inside a secondary school class in Rwanda. History teachers are going for Itorero before the school year begins (Photo by Andrea Signori/AVSI)

The ministry of education has taken history teachers from secondary schools for Itorero training – amid longstanding concern over genocide ideology in schools.

A total of 1,800 teachers of history will report in Nyanza district for the first of its kind training taking place January 3-11, 2020. This is before the academic year opens next week

Itorero is mass mobilization training program in which those attending spend all their time there learning about a variety of issues including current government programs, the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and basic military drills.

It began in 1999 as “Ingando” for students who had completed high school preparing to join university. Due to its success in shaping those who underwent the program, an autonomous body the National Itorero Commission was set up, making Itorero training a priority national project.

Different levels of Rwandan society are supposed to undergo the program, including the media.

The latest Itorero for history teachers comes after years of regular parliamentary reports which show genocide ideology still remains rife in schools.

Government may have come to a conclusion that history teachers are not giving students the correct dose of the official narrative of what Rwanda is really as seen from prism current establishment.

Rwanda’s history remains contentious, and the version you get depends on who you are speaking to, from either side Rwanda’s polarised political scene.

Before 1994, Rwanda’s history was framed around Hutu, Tutsi and Twa – which were advanced as ethnic groups. The result, reinforced by government machinery, was the genocide against the Tutsi.

After July 1994, the RPF-led administration has opted to promote the notion of ‘Ndi Umunyarwanda’ or ‘I am Rwandan’, and ethnic labels are a criminal offence.

Current history teaching has also completely removed ethnicity, and students attending history classes at different levels, and groups in Itorero trainings, are taught what was in ancient Rwanda: that there were no ethnic groups, instead there were 20 clans in which all Rwandans belonged.

There has been ongoing concern among policy makers that perhaps teachers at primary and secondary, are themselves not on same page as regards what they should tell their students. Some teachers have prosecuted for acts that emphasize what is considered the ‘old history’.

The divisive narrative about Rwanda is still being advanced by Rwandan exiles, many of whom were in power before 1994 and their offsprings, or the offsprings of those who are no longer alive.

The education ministry said in a statement on this Monday morning that the theme of the Itorero training in Nyanza will be: “Twubake Uburezi Bufite Ireme bushingiye ku Murage n’Amateka by’u Rwanda” (Building an Education Based on Legacy and History of Rwanda).

Across the whole country, there is a total of over 1,700 secondary schools with a total teacher base of 30,000 staff.

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