Ideas, Stories, and Profiles

For anyone who has thought critically about Itorero, Rwanda’s national civic education programme launched in late 2007, it comes so easy to deem its methods visibly flawed. A Twenty-sixteen study (originally a post-graduate thesis) by Sylvestre Nzahabwanayo (PhD) of the University of Rwanda sheds light on some of the training scheme’s inconsistencies with sustainable and active citizenry.

Twenty-five years after the genocide against the Tutsi, the young scholar suggests, Rwanda could use a notion of citizenship that fosters critical thinking, democratic values, and cosmopolitanism. In contrast, Itorero “relies heavily” on a republican and communitarian paradigm that risks producing uncritical and docile citizens — although, his paper assesses, the programme has helped encourage unity, values of integrity, hard work, self-reliance, and upholding one’s dignity, among others. The programme has neglected the important attributes of an active and responsible citizen.

It is hard to disagree.

I met with Mr. Nzahabwanayo in November to discuss his findings and make sense of a possible direction for change. As a scholar in political philosophy applied in education, he was keen to study “local, indigenous form of knowledge and elevate it to the academic debate.” That is how he took an interest in the concept of Itorero.

A corresponding policy brief co-authored with Prof. Kai Horsthemke, and published on the Genocide Research Hub (an initiative of Aegis Trust), provides insight into the proposed paradigm.

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