The commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwandan schools, Part 2
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Why is it so important for children and young people to commemorate the genocide against the Tutsi?
The purpose of annual commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi is to awaken greater awareness of Rwandans and the international community about the value of life, and to renew our collective commitment to protect and uphold fundamental human rights to ensure that genocide never happens again anywhere in the world. More specifically, the commemoration is to honor the memory of more than one million Rwandans who died in the hundred days of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Rwanda is walking the journey of reconciliation and rising from the ashes it had been reduced to, in order to survive, live, and thrive as a nation with forward being identified as the only way to go while ensuring the pledge of ‘never again’ is a true ‘never again’.
During the time of commemoration, there are also different activities and initiatives to support genocide survivors in various ways. The 1994 genocide against the Tutsi is commemorated at the local village, district or national levels, depending on the priority set out by the government each year. During the memorial week, people often come together to listen to talks about the history of Rwanda, to hear testimonies of genocide survivors and speeches from leaders. On April 7th, the President lays a wreath at a memorial site where genocide victims are buried and a procession, called a ‘Walk to Remember’, brings together Rwandans and foreigners residing in Rwanda and ends at a central location where candles are lit as part of a night vigil to honor the genocide victims. The “Walk to Remember” was conceived in 2009 by the members of an organization called Peace and Love Proclaimers (PLP) to empower the youth of Rwanda and around the world to take a stand against genocide. By using the walk as a platform to educate the youth about genocide, PLP uses knowledge and understanding as a means for prevention.
Most of the people who take part in the Walk to Remember are young people. Given that the genocide commemoration week usually happens during school holidays, students make their own choice to attend the Walk to Remember rather than attending as part of an organized school event. However, genocide commemoration activities also continue to happen in schools throughout the 100 days, with each school dedicating one of these days to some sort of commemoration activity.
Rwanda’s national school curriculum states that “Rwandan students will remember the genocide, which is a means to protect the memory of those that were lost”. The necessity for the youth to remember the lives lost in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi is reflected in President Kagame’s speech on the 26th Commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi. He said,
We will continue to educate new generations of today and of the future about what happened to our country and what we have learnt from it. The lessons learnt from our history have united us; they teach us the value of good leadership that cares for the well-being of all citizens. We have learnt the importance of working together to build a better future for all Rwandans without discrimination. We put these lessons into practice for the benefit of those who will come after us.