The second week of the Kigali institute started with the Peace in an Era of Crisis conference, a collaboration of the Peace and Conflict school at Kent State and the Center for Conflict Management at the University of Rwanda. 

The conference included a series of panels, presentations and workshops over a period of three days, all pertaining to the topic of peace and conflict. The students sat in the audience, listening to each presentation. The first panel of the conference included Sarah Schmidt, our professor for the Kigali institute, who presented on peace pedagogies and the issue of colonization in education.

“When we think about education as a system it’s very Eurocentric,” Schmidt said. “The purpose of my conference presentation was to problematize that and show why that is an issue.”

“We really can’t have peace if at the heart of an education system we have white supremacy,” she said.

Sarah Schmidt, Kent State peace and conflict studies professor, participates in the first panel of the Peace in an Era of Crisis conference. Her presentation was on peace pedagogies and the decolonization of education.

Barbara Wein teaches a 90-minute workshop at the Peace in an Era of Crisis conference, where she emphasized the need for peace education and positive peace.

For one of the last workshops, Barbara Wein, American University professor and mentor to Schmidt, conducted an interactive session that included conversations on our impact in the world, lessons on the timeline of war and an emphasis on the need for positive peace. During her presentation, she quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

“He says, ‘I refuse to accept the view that the human race is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war… I believe that unmarked truth and unconditional love will have the final word,’” she said. 

Primary school children stand outside the classrooms after school, waiting for their parents to pick them up.

Students kick and run after a ball outside of their classrooms, the ball flying into the air as a boy tries to kick it.

During a break in the conference, Déo, a recent graduate of the University of Rwanda, showed me and three other study abroad students around his primary school. 

We passed parents who were picking up their kids from class walking out of the school, while others played with a ball outside the classrooms. Two girls around the age of five ran up to me to give me a hug, telling me hello in English and their names in their native language of Kinyarwanda.  

Fraterne and his driver drive up the mountain at Lake Burera, leading us to the view of the volcanoes.

On one of our free days, the study abroad students took a trip to the Northern Province with Frama Nature Adventures. 

Fraterne, owner of Frama Nature Adventures, shows us around his home village in Birwa, Rwanda.

Miles Listerman, Kent State business major, reaches out to touch one of Fraterne’s cows in his backyard in Birwa, Rwanda.

Fraterne, the owner of Frama Nature Adventures, has recently started taking tourists to his home village of Birwa, along with a tour of an island with a view of volcanoes. 

Fraterne led us up a mountain to view  Lake Burera and its islands and the five volcanoes in the Northern province. From the other side of the mountain, we could see into the neighboring country of Uganda. 

Fraterne’s father stands in the doorway of his home after letting us walk through in Birwa, Rwanda.

While walking down the mountain, we were met by Fraterne’s father, who let us walk through his childhood home. 

The house was a small, dark concrete house, with cows, rabbits, goats and a view of the mountainside in their backyard. To get to the house, we walked along small paths on the side of the mountain. Corn laid out to dry in their backyard, and we could hear children being let out of school in the distance. 

Dana Oleskiewicz, Kent State cultural foundations doctoral student, dances with Rwandan cultural dancers at Twin Lakes, Rwanda.

Jordon Egbert, Kent State higher education masters students, stands to participate in African cultural dance at Twin Lakes, Rwanda.

After spending some time with the animals, we took a boat to one of the islands, where Fraterne’s main tourism venture is. 

On the island, we watched a cultural African dance. The dancers said the men depict conflict through dancing, while the women depict cattle. Cultural dancing acts as a way of generating income for people in Birwa. At the end of the performance, we joined in.

Kent State master’s student in higher education Jordon Egbert said visiting the northern province added to his experience studying abroad.

“The northern province and rural communities showed us a new side of Rwanda,” he said. “It really highlighted the community spirit and love for this country.”

Kent students Miles, Kaleb, Lily, and Jordon play chicken in the lake at Twin Lakes, Rwanda.

Published in Kentwired
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