Education Is Our Way Forward

Blog Photo-6TRO – Muhanga – Rwanda

My hosts in Rwanda had a surprise for me on my schedule in the middle of my second week. They would not tell me where we were going even on the morning of as we boarded the bus. All I knew is that we would take a bus for 2 hours to get where we were going from Muhanga.

Two bus trips and a moto taxi ride brought us to a the site of a school yard. The plot of land the school houses sit on is definitely something for our school to be envious of. There are buildings to house Preschool all the way to eighth grade. They are spread out across a huge plot of land, high on a hill top where when you look around, you can see several villages below. There is room enough on the grounds for a futbol field, volley ball court, and even a nice playground area for the kids.

But, a playground was never to be built here. And, these school buildings never ended up housing children for the purpose they were built: education. Instead, this school yard and these classrooms were the site of the largest occurrence of mass murder in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide at Murambi.

Now I know I just recently posted about not wanting to make people sad and not wanting to evoke pity. I still have that goal in mind. This story, while the history is sad that it happened, it is not aimed at garnering pity from you. It is about remembrance and learning.

“Remember the bad times as you struggle to build a better world”

That is the quote you see when you enter and leave the memorial site.

The memorial building was built up in the middle of the grounds. It tells a detailed history of the genocide starting with early attempts at genocide decades earlier. There are survivors and perpetrators both documented on video. There are memorial stories dedicated to those that lost their lives and were able to be identified (their age, their hobbies, how they were killed). A photo memorial was set up at the end of the tour where photos were hung of the deceased, and people can add to it at any time.

As for the unfinished school buildings that surrounded it all, they are filled with the bones of those who were dumped in mass graves. Some are rooms full of intact skeletons. Some are only bones or skulls that could not be made into full bodies. The skeletons are not covered in glass, you can go right next to them and see where each machete mark is.

I took no photos of the insides of these buildings. I did not need photos to remember what I saw. I could never forget. I also did not want to attempt to share photos of it. I feel a lot would be lost in the translation. A pictures cannot capture the feeling of seeing them piled on cots, knowing which ones are children from their sizes (so many of them). In a photo it would all seem so flat.

There are so many separate stories, so many facts, so much history I did not learn about when I was in school. I learned so much more from spending time with the people that lived through it, people my age (many younger), hearing their stories. I will not talk about any on here, but if you want to hear, ask me when we see each other next. Be forewarned, I told my husband he would not want to hear details, but he insisted. At the end of one story he said “Ignorance really is bliss.”

I was able to visit three memorial sites. It is actually still pretty hard to find detailed information on the web of each site. If you would like to know more about each one, please see the links, books and movies I found below:

Murambi
http://genocidememorials.cga.harvard.edu/murambi.html

Kigali
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kigali_Memorial_Centre

Hotel Des Mille Collines
This article is a bit old, but has some good background to it.
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/28/international/africa/28rwanda.html
The Hotel is actually very beautiful now. If I had the money, I would stay there.

Books:
– We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With our Families
http://www.amazon.com/Wish-Inform-Tomorrow-Killed-Families/dp/B002PJ4I2K
– A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali
http://www.amazon.com/Sunday-at-Pool-Kigali/dp/1400034345
Machete Season
http://www.amazon.com/Machete-Season-Killers-Rwanda-Speak/dp/0312425031

Movies:
Hotel Rwanda
A Sunday in Kigali
Shooting Dogs

Originally this was going to be one of my last posts for Rwanda. But, seeing as April 7th is Genocide Memorial Day and this week is celebrated as a memorial week, I figured I would bump up the post and get back to the profiles after.  This week celebrates 19 years since the 1994 Genocides.