This week we welcomed from Rwanda the Principal of Gahini Secondary School, Luke Karemangingo, and Bishop Manaseh. Luke and Manaseh will be spending the next three weeks visiting our School, St Paul’s in Warragul and Traralgon, as well as many congregations within the Gippsland Diocese. It is an absolute honour to welcome these ‘old friends’ back to our School. Both Luke and Manaseh have welcomed many Gippsland Grammar students and staff, including myself, to their small town of Gahini. I have great memories of my time teaching in their Secondary School.
Luke and Manaseh have spoken at Chapel and also visited many classes. They have told the story of Rwanda - a story of tragedy and genocide, filled with trauma and tragedy – but also a story of healing, reconciliation and hope. Rwanda has grown to be the second fastest growing economy in Africa, one of the continent’s safest and most stable countries and one of its most progressive.
The visit from Luke and Manaseh has enhanced our understanding of the philosophy of Service Learning at Gippsland Grammar. Students from all campuses have raised money to build Science laboratories at Gahini Secondary School. While our fundraising has been incredibly worthwhile to the Rwandans, the real value for them and us is our relationship and support for each other.
We do not want to be seen as ‘do gooders’ who do things for others because we think it is what they need. The underlying philosophy of Service Learning is not doing things to or for others, but doing things with others. While the laboratories have enhanced learning opportunities for students at Gahini Secondary School, it is the collaborative relationship between our schools that has allowed us to achieve great things together.
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda resulted in the death of more than one million people in one hundred days. In the period following, the country was in a state of shock, grief and anger. The world watched in fear, with the threat of revenge killings hanging over the country. Fortunately, this did not occur and Rwanda embarked on a long period of reconciliation and rebuilding, both physically and culturally. During this period, it became an isolated and unwanted part of the world. The rest of the world largely turned its back both during and after the genocide.
For Rwandans, being loved and supported by the global community is almost as important to them as the rebuilding of their nation. The love and friendship that the Gippsland Grammar community provide to the people of Gahini, and Rwanda in general, is possibly the most important aspect of our commitment to them and our commitment to Service Learning. Every time our students and staff visit Rwanda, or our Rwandan friends visit this country, we reinforce our commitment to work with each other to build a better Rwanda. Our desire to walk with them is the most significant aspect of Service Learning and the one we most treasure.