Africa: The TTC Rubengera in Rwanda
In the process of making learners and teachers the actors of peace and transforming protestant schools into peace gardens – as it is the main theme for the GPENreformation 2018-2021 – a workshop was carried-out in TTC Rubengera, on Saturday19th Jan 2019. It aimed at assessing the situation of peace and discord within the institution and suggestions for change. 15 students were selected from senior 4, 5 and 6 to participate in the workshop. The facilitators were Pastor Ernest Nkurunziza, the chaplain at TTC Rubengera and Jean Marie Vianney Niyonkuru, a former student at the same college.
The opening remark was led by Pastor Ernest Nkurunziza reflected on the passage in Mathew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called son of God.” He noted that the stride towards peace requires efforts and hardship so that peacemaking actions become a call and recommendation from God.
A short introduction was given on the Global Pedagogical Network – GPENreformation and its commitment in the promotion of peace at schools. The students were encouraged to express their ideas freely from their experience, individually and in groups accordingly on the following questions:
- What does peace mean and what does discord mean? (Individual work)
- Where is peace at your school and where is discord at your school?
- Why is there peace at your school and why is there discord at your school
- What can you, your teacher, your school, your government do to ensure peace?
Meaning of Peace and Discord
Each participant was asked to write a statement or to find a symbol on the meaning of peace and discord to create a common understanding:
- A situation where people live together in security without violence
- A situation where people enjoy life together without conflict
- Freedom in the sense that everybody has opportunity and possibility to make his/her choices of activities; with more discussion freedom has been understood as the possibility to access the basic needs
- Peace on media refers to the access of information and non-restriction of journalism
- Peace in society as a situation of security where achievements are efficiently shared and connection is ensured
- A place where values such as unity, love are practiced
- Peace in the Bible: “A dry morsel with gladness is better than a house full of sacrifices with conflict (Proverbs 17:1); Whoever is a friend loves all times. And a brother is proved by distress (Proverbs 17:17).”
- Violence, dictatorship and fight
- Denying peoples their rights
- Divergence between people on media: for instance quarrels on posted information and conflicting comments
- In the bible, discord comes from jealousy among brothers or friends (Genesis 4:3-8)
- Discord in society means fighting neighbors
Peace and Discord in class
In group work (5 groups), students agreed upon their understanding on peace at classroom level for which discord is the opposite. A peaceful classroom is demonstrated by a situation where:
- Everyone has the opportunity to express his/her ideas
- Everyone helps each other in the classroom
- There is a common understanding
- Everyone respect each other
- There is success in learning situations
- Ideas are shared
Inversely, a class where discord prevails is portrayed by
- Teacher’s subjectivism, inequality and selfishness
- A class with a little number of success
- A class where there is theft
Where is Peace and/or Discord at your School?
During a break time, the students identified places where they experience peace and places where there is discord.
Places where Peace prevails
- Playground (90%): The participants pointed out that during games and plays they enjoy together collectively on the playground. They learn from one another, advise each other to build constructive core values and they feel free and safe.
- Main hall (80 %): According to the participants, in the main hall they feel free and comfortable to perform activities according to their competences: drama, music, dances, debate, talent show, etc.
- Library (90%): The participants find the library a lovely and free place where students get resources that they need and enjoy the customer care.
- Administration offices (30%): It is a peaceful place because the office helps student to solve issues related to survival needs
Places where Discord prevails
- Refectory (60%): Although the times for breakfast, lunch and dinner are important for sharing food or tea and one can have conversations, the students do not agree with the measures taken by the school administration to students who come late in the refectory. For instance snatching food and throwing it as one participant depicted by drawing.
- ICT Laboratory (80%): The participants pointed out that discord in the ICT laboratory is caused by insufficiency of computers in comparison of the number of students as well as by misunderstandings between teachers and students on prohibition of searching and chatting during ICT lessons.
- Dormitory (50%): The discord in the dormitory is caused by theft of materials and disagreements between students, their patron and matron.
- Administration offices (70%): The time spent chatting on social media (whatsApp, face book, etc…) was raised as one amongst the causes of poor customer care. In addition, negative emotions towards students and heavy punishments are obstacles to peace at our school.
Reasons why some Situations at School are peaceful while Others are not
The participants note that peace or discord are not a constant situation. It may change at any time according to favoring or disfavoring factors. For some situations, peace depends on cooperation, teamwork, solidarity, evangelism, participation in clubs activities and sports. While discord depends on dictatorship, heavy punishment, bad behaviour, non-respect of rules, scarcity of resources, etc.
Actions for Peace at School
Participants were encouraged to identify their role as students, the role of teachers, schools and government to ensure peace. Ideas were collected and then classified into actions and values to be upheld.
Values: Accountability, respect human dignity and rights, objectivity, time management, team work, freedom, and inclusiveness.
Actions at Student Level
Students admitted to take the following actions:
- Establish and promote different clubs of peace at school,
- Composing songs and poems for peace,
- Sensitize peace in all school members.
- Post symbols of peace at school
- Use efficiently the media for peace making and advocacy for peace.
Actions at Teacher Level
For peace to prevail in school, teachers and staff are recommended the following actions:
- Helping students to put into practice rules
- Giving guidance channel
- Advocacy for students
- Positive behavior management
- Prepare regular workshops about peace building
Actions at School Level
The school should contribute in the following actions:
- Empowering subordinates
- Provide enough resources
- Prepare a peace Day at school
- Promote inclusiveness at school
- Create a guidance channel
- Advocacy for peace
- Sensitize peace in all school members
Actions at the Government Level
The government should ensure the human rights are respected;
- Establish the counseling service within schools
- Provide resources and grants to schools.
- Establish national day peace.
- Organize national conferences about peace
- Promote peace education in school as academic course.
The situation of peace and discord reveals that self-assessment is always necessary at school to identify the perceptions of members at every level. Also, many actions and efforts are needed to be conjugated to ensure that learning at protestant schools takes place in a truly pacific environment. The recommendations have to be communicated to the teachers and administrative in order to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement. The further reflection will involve the discussion with stakeholders of the school in order to develop ideas for making the school into peace garden.
These ideas were worked out by students of the senior classes 4, 5 and 6 in a workshop. The participants were Umutoni Pascaline, Irasubiza Blaise, Umwamikazi Diane, Munyemana Jacques, Uwimpuhwe Hassina, Bizimana Théogène, Niyomugabo Théogène, Habakwizera Claude, Nzayisenga Lucien, Muhawenimana Annoncée, Uwimbabazi Gloria, Bayisenge Jean Marie Vianney, Uwizeye Aline, Irashubije Sevigne and Nsengimana Vincent. The workshop was facilitated by Jean Marie Vianney Niyonkuru and Pastor and Ambassador Ernest Nkurunziza. The latter provided text and photos.