19 June 2017

Rwanda: REB Recalls Textbook With Content Trivialising Genocide

Rwanda Education Board (REB) has recalled a textbook, 'General Studies and Communication Skills', from schools for "having content that trivialise the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi."

The textbook was recalled after a teacher in Kirehe District alerted REB.

The textbook was published in 2016 by Indian publication consultants known as LAXMI Publishers and its copies were were distributed to Advanced Level secondary schools, primarily for Senior Four classes, based on REB's new 2017 competency-based curriculum.

Some of the content says there was a civil war in Rwanda in 1994 instead of Genocide against the Tutsi.

The textbook also says dowry is considered a burden to Rwandan boys, which might be contrary to Rwandan culture where dowry is taken as a symbolic gesture to the girl's family.

REB officials, in collaboration with district and sector education officers, toured different schools in the country recently to recollect the textbook.

Sources said in some schools the textbook was already in use, while in others it was yet to reach students.

Emmanuel Kabalisa, the director of education in Ruhango District, told The New Times last week that the textbook was recalled from schools following a directive from REB.

"We received a letter from REB directing us to collect the textbook in schools, luckily they had not been used in schools in our district yet," Kabalisa said.

Elsewhere, in Nyarugenge District, Beatha Kabatesi, the district education director, said the textbook had not been used in class.

However, Fr Lambert Dusingizimana, the principal of Groupe Scolaire Saint Andre, Nyamirambo, told The New Times that the textbook was already in use in his school.

"The school was using the textbook until REB sent a notice recalling it due to content that contradict the country's historical account. It might be banned for ever because some parts deny the Genocide against the Tutsi," Dusingizimana said.

At least 16 districts had received the textbook before it was recalled. The distributors were in the process of distributing it in the remaining districts.

Janvier Gasana, the REB director-general, confirmed the development, saying everyone who had a role in checking it should take responsibility.

"The mistakes were committed at different points, either the publisher, the error-checking and proofreading team and even REB itself should take shared responsibility of the mistakes in the textbook in one way or another," Gasana said.

"The publisher will be responsible for the cost of correction in the textbook and that of redistribution process, as part of the agreement signed between both sides states," he added.

Call for more local publishers

Gasana suggested the error could be due to inadequate knowledge of Rwanda's history by the foreign publisher.

He decried the low number of local publishers in Rwanda and their low publishing capacity, which he said pushes REB to provide tenders to international publishers.

"There are only three recognised publishers in Rwanda. Even then, some of them are run by foreign employees but their publication capacity and quality remains low. It does not mean that we do not give them tenders for publication during procurement process but they are still few and we find ourselves spending a lot of money on international publishers," Gasana said.

He said the board was ready to give preferential treatment to local publishers during procurement process as part of efforts to promote Made-in-Rwanda initiative and cut costs.

Meanwhile, Kabalisa added that another History textbook was also recalled from Ruhango District schools after it was discovered that it contained mistakes in its content.

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