By Valentine Chauchereau, Generations For Peace Communications Intern
“Why did Rwandans kill their own people? How is it possible? What exactly happened during the genocide? These are all questions my students would constantly ask,” Bonaventure explains. For 12 years, Bonaventure has taught at GSNDA Nyundo, an all-girls secondary school, in a western province of Rwanda, Rubavu. In class, her students often had trouble understanding how the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi could ever take place.
Together with her parents, her five brothers and sisters, Bonaventure has been deeply impacted by the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi. When the genocide started, she and her family fled as refugees to Tanzania, one of Rwanda’s neighbouring countries. Two years later, they returned to their home country where she finished secondary school and went on to study at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE). “The genocide profoundly changed my life. Once we came back, many members of my family left Rwanda to study and find better opportunities. They would not have left if the genocide had not happened. The genocide split my family apart.”
Since graduating from KIE, Bonaventure has found her passion for education and peacebuilding. One memory that still inspires her to this day is when she helped one of her students draft a speech during a public speaking competition between youth from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In her speech, her student concluded: “We are the change that we want to see.” This left a lasting impact on Bonaventure – it showed how insightful and resilient young generations are.
“I cannot change adults. But by educating youth, we can make a difference. Although this change may not be seen immediately, young generations are the decision makers of tomorrow. If we help them understand our past and trust all Rwandans without distinction, they will build a better future for Rwanda.”
To better help her students understand how they can contribute to the reconciliation process in Rwanda and realise their full potential, Bonaventure joined Generations For Peace (GFP) as part of the Sport For Peace Programme in 2015. “I interact with youth every day through GFP activities. I want to better learn how to help them, how to provide them with answers, guidance, and support, so that they can make a change in our society.”
During one a GFP Sport session in which students were playing “sitting volleyball” (a game in which participants must remain seated whilst passing a ball to each other), one participant became particularly angry. She wanted to stand up and play according to her own rules. “I told her she had to respect the rules of the game. Sometimes, life provides us with limits that we have to respect. Discipline is necessary if we want to live together,” Bonaventure recalls. Through sport-based activities, Bonaventure believes that young people can distance themselves from real life issues and better reflect on ways to deal with them. “In the end, the activity itself does not really matter. It is the broader message around it that is important,” she shares.
Led by her passion for youth and peacebuilding, Bonaventure attended a conference that raised awareness about the Rwandan Genocide against Tutsi and aimed to make young students realise they can be actors of change. “But what about young people who cannot access education?” a student asked at the end of the conference. To this day, this question remains in Bonaventure’s memory.
“Youth who did not have the opportunity to continue their education are mostly concerned with making a living. They do not see how they can contribute to the community. Even more, they often feel frustrated and rejected by society,” Bonaventure explains.
Bonaventure believes that young people who cannot access education in Rwanda do not realise how valuable they are to the peacebuilding process in the country, even though they constitute its core foundation. “During the Rwandan Genocide against Tutsi, many people were manipulated into killing others. For this reason, it is important that each and every Rwandan is able to think critically and develop the capacity to reflect upon the consequences of their own actions.”
Looking to the future, Bonaventure wants to work with children and youth outside of school and make them understand that society did not give up on them. “We have to include and listen to youth from all layers of society to build a peaceful and unified Rwanda, so that one day we can all be proud of belonging to one and the same nation as fellow Rwandans.”