TAKING CULTURE TO FUTURE GENERATIONS – MUSEUM OUTREACH IN SCHOOLS
In its special outreach program, Rwanda Museums has continuously extended its reach to various schools around the country in abid to impart cultural cognition to the young generation whilst upholding Rwandan culture.
“Outreach program” was initiated under Rwanda Museum’s mission of educating, preserving and promoting the Rwandan culture, with an aim of implementing and conserving it among youths. It helps develop students’ understanding of culture and Museums in Rwanda hence build a spirit of cherishing, conserving and promoting their heritage.
In the continuation of this program, Rwanda Museums visited 3 schools in Nyamasheke district, Western province from March 14th to March 16th 2017. These schools include: Groupe Scolaire St. Nicolas, Groupe Scolaire St. Joseph as well as Institut St. Famille.
On arrival at GS St. Nicolas, a mixed day school which was the first to visit, Rwanda Museums’ outreach team was highly welcomed by 734 students who were excited and curious to see, touch and feel their culture. They had an opportunity to watch a documentary film about Rwanda’s history as well as museums and their functions which opened their mind to a wider knowledge of their heritage. They also had a fascinating experience with most of the traditional items/collections including the ancient attire (ishabure, inkanda, impuzu, uruyonga, ect), traditional musical instruments - ikondera, traditional home use items/objects – inkoko, agacuma, uruho, imbehe, indoshyo,imisambi, ibyansi, etc which served different purposes in typical Rwandan traditional homes.
Groupe Scolaire St. Joseph, a mixed boarding school with 556 students, was second to be visited on 15th March 2017 and their welcoming spirit was such an experience to have. The outreach team was amazed by the zeal exhibited by these youngsters who welcomed them with a traditional dances and songs with the highest degree of morale. One could read their overwhelming excitement as they run around to grab the traditional objects, wear them, touch, and feel as well as posing for pictures with them; ‘….oh what an amazing life our ancestors lived…’ exclaimed one of the students. Students learn quite a lot about culture through the documentary film on Rwanda and Rwanda Museums’ function, and another interesting one about imvugo nziza – a film about how early Rwandans always maintained a perfect conversation flowing without offending each other or even solve some wrangles between relatives, friends and amongst each other through this interesting art of conversation known as imvugo nziza. It was an interesting topic to students as they watched, learnt and resolved to apply these values in their daily communication to avoid unnecessary conflicts among themselves which are sometimes caused by minor misunderstandings.
More to their amazement was the visit to the most powerful King Kigeli IV Rwabugiri’s former palace – ibigabiro located just outside their gate. They had curious questions that got answered to their satisfaction; among which were about the king’s life and his heroic activities. Students were left with great admiration for the King’s spirit of protecting and expanding his country during his reign as told by Museums’ staff.
On March 16th 2017, the team visited Institut St. Famille, a girls’ boarding school with 463 students who exhibited such an admirable welcoming and disciplined spirit. Their zeal to listen, watch, learn and discover their culture was overwhelming. Besides the attractive exhibition on the traditional items, students fixed their attention on the documentary film as well as the presentation by Museums’ staff which helped them understand most things to which they confessed were eye opening. Students asserted that the session was like a gospel preached to the converted because they had the desire to know their heritage but had not got such a great opportunity to meet the right people that would feed them with the right information. They were glad to share some of the curious questions with the right people who helped them fully understand some of the mysterious tales told to them by various people.
One of the rewarding discoveries to them was the history attached to ‘akarwa k’abakobwa’, a neighboring heritage site that upholds educative cultural values; they were delighted to learn why the site was given such a name. Learning that young Rwandan girls who had unwanted pregnancies were desolated by their own families at this site was heartening to these cultural - yearning young ladies; they however understood that this was meant to discourage the rest of girls in the society from getting pregnant before marriage but also upholding the Rwandan culture through generations to come. Museums’ staff asserted that until now Rwandans uphold these values, hence youths should uphold the legacy of their forefathers.
Students also couldn’t wait to touch, feel and bond with the traditional collections after the talk. Each of them excitedly ran faster to grab what they could, be it wearing them, dancing with them, posing for photos in them, etc. They just couldn’t get enough of each collection. They had a memorable experience, together with their teachers and head teacher who just couldn’t help taking each student’s picture wearing traditional clothes.
Museums team deemed this visit such a rewarding investment because investing in children is paving way for a stronger investment. Students also requested that Museums should organize ‘igitaramo’ and get them involved in order to help them get more grounded in their culture.
Outreach program has over the years proved to bridge the gap between museums and the society especially the youngsters whereby after its initiation, museums have seen a great number of schools come to museums for not only visiting but also educational purposes. Teachers confirm that museums truly complement their work because they are like second learning centers for not only the young but also old people.