Few school children in the UK are taught about the Rwandan genocide – a recent survey of fifty teachers showed that time contraints and a lack of subject knowledge and resources prevent most, quite understandably, from teaching about the subject. Nevertheless, students can become highly committed to both the study of the events of 1994 and also to spreading the word about what happened to others. As an exercise in increasing historical knowledge and understanding as well as learning about the difficulties of raising awareness it is unsurpassed.
Students at my school have worked on a project ever since one of them saw the film ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and wanted to know more. We contacted the charity Survivors Fund who were able to put us in touch with a remarkable lady named Liliane Umubyeyi – a survivor of the genocide. After hearing her harrowing story the students were determined to work in their lunchtimes, after school and in their holidays to make more people aware of what happened in 1994 and the terrible situation that survivors face even today. They have given assemblies, spoken to over six hundred people from more than sixty countries about why it is important to remember Rwanda, taken their message to Downing Street, Lambeth Palace and the House of Commons and been instrumental in successfully applying for a Lottery grant to work with other schools in interviewing survivors and creating educational resources that other schools can use.
Click here to access resources for three lessons on the Rwandan genocide put together with my students that you can use with your own class.
The students have been magnificent…and are determined to continue their work until, as they put it, every school in the country knows about what happened to people like Liliane. I know that the students would be annoyed if I didn’t ask you to consider telling your students about what happened in Rwanda, viewing some of the online testimony and possibly even inviting a survivor in to talk to your classes.