Friday was the conclusion of our first week and culminated into a beautiful blossoming of our mutual learning relationships between the Kigali Institute of Education and all 16 of us from CUNY. We passed them the baton and they were responsible for replicating the warm-up activities we engaged throughout the week. It was delightful to see their leadership and the ways they personalized and localized the various activities. Each of the daring facilitators brought an overwhelming spirit of pride and politeness to each endeavor that left many of us humbled and inspired. They also intertwined a gentle sense of humor into their facilitation that transcended language barriers.
One particular warm-up that was replicated with special poignancy is “Four Corners.” Everyone is asked to stand within the large activity room in the disparate assigned corners of which correspond to their particular key motivation for obtaining an education: 1) lots of money, 2) good employment and career, 3) learning about the world, or 4) being a good citizen. The groups are given a few minutes to discuss their reasons among themselves. Then a representative of each group comes forward in turn to state to group’s consensus and, hopefully, recruit others into their corner.
But it was the quiet, grounded, brave voice of a strong young woman who captivated us on all on the reasons to pursue education in the name of good citizenship. She spoke directly about the genocide in Rwanda and the necessity of decency, humanity and community values above all others as the purpose of education. Many people from other corners began joining before she even finished her statement. Many of us from CUNY unsuccessfully choked back tears.
We then formed small discussion groups of five Rwandans per CUNY cohort to review the four different rotating panels of the week, what they gleaned from each one, and how they will potentially utilize the tools and activities into their pedagogy. They amassed a shrewd roster of observations and future implementations:
- increase humanity
- learning in action as opposed to theory
- freedom to think and express
- mental and physical warm-ups
- create happy, positive learning environment
- interactively teach history, literature, geography, current events, etc.
- inspire imagination
- moral lessons
- improve vocabulary
- conflict management
- universal/adaptable to all ages
- unity, love and peacefulness
As one student summarized, the tools we introduced to the student-teachers has “brought life into our lives.”
After lunch we facilitated a brief “hot seat” session where we sat in small circles as one of the CUNY cohorts revisited a role from one of the week’s previous workshops. This allowed the students to directly ask the character whatever questions they wanted relations to whichever dramatic situation they portrayed.
Afterward we began playbuilding with “Little Red Riding Hood” as the source material. The students went into their groups from the previous day and started from their middle image of the story. This was our first real opportunity to begin structured storytelling processes and introduce basic theatre staging and performance. There was an immense difference between their initial timidity on Monday and the playful trust they expressed with us and each other on that Friday. They had synthesized the elements of roleplay, concrete mime, image theatre, and other skills introduced throughout the week into short little skits in which the flora and fauna of the forest or furniture in Grandma’s House had contradicting commentary about the wolf and the impending dangers.
Quite a few students made a specific request for opportunities to freely dialogue with the crew from the United States in an unstructured way that did not have an activity attached. Chris and Helen agreed to find a way to honor the request that the CUNY cohorts agreed was an important and necessary part of the community-building and cultural exchange.
Also, after Dragonfly tripped on an unsecured sewer grate on camp
us [which was fortunately not in use!], a lizard hiding underneath was mortally wounded. A Rwandan student used his foot to put the struggling creature out of its misery. Although community ritual was not on the syllabus, this prompted Dragonfly–along with Anne’s help and the handful of remaining students–to hold an impromptu memorial service for the suddenly deceased reptile. We quickly made a tombstone for the unfortunate creature [which the students helped translate into Kinyarwanda] with a marker and a found tile chip, led everyone in a song, and made a mausoleum fro
m an empty toilet paper tube.
On one hand we all knew it was MAYBE a little bit ridiculous… but maybe NOT–since community acknowledgement of the value of life is exactly what has brought us all together for this two week program.
UBUMUNTU ARTS FESTIVAL
Friday night we returned to the Amphitheater Kigali Memorial for opening night of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival. In only its third year, that night featured a riveting and diverse line-up of performances that spanned age, culture and continent — as well as drama, music, and movement. It was truly a treat to sit back and enjoy the plethora of devised theatre and movement pieces after we had expended so much energy all week in pursuit of the same goals and spirit — theatre for reconciliation, community-building, development and justice. The evening was book-ended by a children’s choir and Congolese street dancers, with incredible variety in between.
After expending so much time and energy all week in the spirit of creation, it was rejuvenating to sit back and be inspired by others using theatre as a tool to change hearts and minds. We are lit by the light of the memorial flame, and the gentle passion of the bright and eager students at Kigali Institute of Education.