Institute News

Teaching with Testimony Unites Hungary and Rwanda

Teachers from all over Hungary gathered in Budapest this month for the six-day introductory seminar to the USC Shoah Foundation’s 2013 Teaching with Testimony for the 21st Century program. But there was one educator among them who didn’t just travel across the country – he came from the other side of the world.

Appolon Gahongayire, an educator at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (KGMC) with whom the USC Shoah Foundation is collaborating on several projects, traveled from Rwanda to join 15 Hungarian teachers in discussions, lectures and more at the seminar, which kicked off the second annual Teaching with Testimony program in Hungary. Teaching with Testimony educates teachers in using testimony from USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive (VHA) in their own learning environments. Over the course of a year, participating teachers create lessons using testimony, present them to their students and professional audiences, and receive coaching and feedback.

He gave a fascinating presentation about using video testimony from the VHA in education in the Rwandan context and everyone really appreciated it. It’s something you don’t often get a chance to listen to in Hungary

The USC Shoah Foundation has been working with KGMC to introduce its online educational platform, IWitness, to Rwandan teachers, said Andrea Szőnyi, USC Shoah Foundation liaison in Hungary.  In April 2013 the Institute integrated 65 testimonies of survivors and rescuers from the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi genocide into the VHA, marking the beginning of the Rwanda Archive and Education Program, the Institute’s landmark initiative in partnership with Aegis Trust at KGMC that aspires to record and preserve approximately 500 Rwandan testimonies as an educational resource for the entire world, for all time. Gahongayire visited Budapest in order to observe the Teaching with Testimony seminar in preparation for the IWitness teacher training program he will lead at KGMC in Rwanda in November.

The KGMC is a permanent memorial to those who fell victim to the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide in 1994. The Centre contains three permanent exhibitions, mass graves and gardens.

The Hungarian teachers felt privileged to include Gahongayire in their program, Szőnyi said.

“Appolon became a valuable member of the group,” Szőnyi said. “He gave a fascinating presentation about using video testimony from the VHA in education in the Rwandan context and everyone really appreciated it. It’s something you don’t often get a chance to listen to in Hungary.”

For the students who participated in making the film, especially those of Roma descent who struggle to find acceptance as they often feel they are looked down on, this is really something special

At the seminar, Gahongayire was also able to observe the 2012 Teaching with Testimony program’s Follow Up Workshop, where teachers presented the video-testimony based lessons and projects they developed over the past year. One particular project, a short film one teacher made with his students called “It Did Not Start With the Cattle Cars” greatly impressed Gahongayire. The film was intended for a Hungarian audience, using Holocaust testimony to address questions of discrimination, exclusion and the conflicts between Roma and non-Roma Hungarian ethnic groups, but Gahongayire thought its message was universal and plans to use the film in his lessons with Rwandan students.

Szőnyi said it’s “amazing” that the work of students and teachers in a remote Hungarian town will be used in lessons in Rwanda, and that the two groups have been brought together by USC Shoah Foundation.

“For the students who participated in making the film, especially those of Roma descent who struggle to find acceptance as they often feel they are looked down on, this is really something special,” she said

When the Rwanda program launches in November, teachers will learn how to use testimony clips from survivors and witnesses of the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide, as well as Holocaust testimony clips, to develop activities in IWitness to be used with students. The activities will help present the many parallels that can be drawn between the patterns leading to genocide, including the use and power of propaganda in both the Holocaust and the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide.

Participants in the 2013 Teaching with Testimony for the 21st Century program will return in 2014 for their follow-up workshop.