blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff
The Turikumwe visited the Nyange Secondary School on Saturday January 3rd 2015 while en route to Kibuye District. Participants were fortunate enough to meet with Aloys Murigande, a former teacher and survivor of the March 18th, 1997 school attack that left six students dead and many others injured when they refused to separate themselves into different ethnic groups at the request of the killers. While the Nyange School Massacre stands today as a symbol of the serious challenges Rwanda faced following the 1994 genocide, the bravery of the students who took a stand against the attackers’ bigotry, reflects the progress Rwanda has made as unified country in the years since.
In preparation for the trip, Turikumwe participants watched “We Are All Rwandans,” a short film that tells the story of the March 1997 massacre and the students’ courage. As a country just 20 years post-genocide, foreigners often immediately associate Rwanda with tragedy and conflict and tend to know few details of the country’s recovery process. It was therefore important that Turikumwe, as an international group, learn about the March 1997 school attack as it pertains to Rwandan history post-genocide. It was also important that the group visit a site that memorialized Rwandan bravery and unity in the face of death rather than hatred and tragedy which are so often associated with the genocide memorials.
During the visit, Turikumwe participants walked around the school grounds, visited the memorial for the six students who lost their lives and listened to Murigande as he retold the story of the 1997 attack. In the group’s post-visit discussion, participants considered the lessons they could take from the bravery of the students. Participants shared a variety of takeaways including the value of peaceful protest, the idea of respecting our common humanity, of practicing what we each preach and the importance of patriotism and willingness to die for what you believe in. Not all agreed with the last two points as they pertained to the Nyange students who are considered by many to be heroes, and the group proceeded to discuss the definition of a hero. “The objective should be that we have a peaceful society where the kids in the school do not need to die in the first place. They shouldn’t have to be dead heroes,” said one participant.
Overall, the visit to Nyange Secondary School was incredibly moving for the entire group and it was clear that regardless of where participants stood on the hero debate, all were beyond inspired by the Nyange students’ courage.