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From Discrimination to Peace in Rwandan Classrooms

In 1994 Rwanda saw a mass slaughter of the Tutsi community at the hands of the dominant Hutus. Approximately 800,000 were killed in only 100 days. The mass slaughtered was encouraged by the government and ethnic tensions. However, education had a huge role to play in this matter as well. It was used to instigate hate, intolerance and fear. The biased curriculum and teaching ideologies solidified ethnic differences within classrooms and promoted genocide ideology.

After the Genocide Rwanda faced the massive task of rebuilding its education system. There was a lack of teachers, school infrastructure had been destroyed, the textbooks available could lead to another conflict, lack of funds and 1000s of orphaned kids in need of education. Hence, in 1995, a ban was placed on history textbooks which promoted biased information, as the new government tried to figure out how and to what extent the past could be incorporated in the education system, without causing a conflict again.

In the period immediately after the Genocide, the history curriculum lightly touched on the topic of the genocide to protect the upcoming generation from the dark past. Curriculum that promoted unity, peace, tolerance and justice was taught. In 2008 the Rwanda National Curriculum Development Centre released the new history curriculum which taught the Genocide. However, the new curriculum focused on unifying and inclusive qualities of nationality, citizenship and patriotism.

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One surprising thing I have learnt in this course, which is also reflected in this post is that, if something is happening in one country, then there is a good chance that it is happening in many other countries as well. Not only were things like this happening in Rwanda, but all of Africa. Not only was this happening in Africa, but the spread of hate and propaganda through education has had deep historical roots across the whole world, with other notable examples being the Nazi hatred spread through their curriculum.

I did, however, find it interesting that the new government in 1995 banned history but the new curriculum was released in 2008, 13 years later. It really makes on…


It is very interesting to note that education was used to instigate violence. We tend to constrain things to binaries - viewing them as either this or that - same is the case with education where the simple provision of education is seen as the solution to every problem. Two similar instances come to mind when thinking of education as a driver of conflict. The first one is the US designed curriculum that was taught in maddarrassas in the 80s where counting was taught in terms of x amounts of bullets killing x amount of soldiers. This curriculum was designed to shape young minds into joining the war as mujahideen and fight against the Soviet Union. The second one i…


Although teaching a curriculum that promotes peace and tolerance is an effective way to move on from past hatreds, in the case of Rwanda, their revised curriculum seeks to put a complete end to the different ethnic divisions. Talking about ethnicities at schools is discouraged, while students at the primary level are taught that the Belgians divided the Rwandans into the Hutus, Tutsi and Twa, and the colonizers 'divide and rule' policy was the main cause of the 1994 genocide. The idea of these ethnic identities sharing the same religion, culture and language is also aserted. Don't you think this singular understanding of Rwandan history as the state portrays it greats restricts opportunities for critical analysis and facilitates the complete…


Great Post! This initiative taken by the Rwandan government acts as a glimmer of hope even in the Pakistani context. We have talked in great depth about how the curriculum in Pakistan plays the "us vs them" narrative amongst individuals of different religions, ethnicities, genders etc. allowing only the dominant hegemony to persist and the status quo to be stable. I believe changes in the curriculum is a great stepping stone for cohesion among people. It is important to note that such changes will allow unification from a very rudimentary level. When we talk about how the change needs to initaite from one's mindset, I believe here is here education plays a pivotal role. Making sure the Single National Curriculum is…

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