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Why cultural studies are important to students

As once stated by C.S. Lewis, a British novelist and poet; ‘education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a cleverer devil’. Well, according to education experts, teachers and parents should be at the forefront in instilling learners with cultural values both at school and home.

Students of Green Hills Academy dance to traditional dance during their cultural gala. (Lydia Atieno)

Cultural values should be made known to youngsters so that they pass on the knowledge to other generations. One way of achieving this at school, is by for instance, organising cultural galas with the aim of teaching students about their history and culture of Rwanda.

What should be done?

According to Japheth Kwitonda, a teacher at Nyange 1 Secondary School in Musanze District, when it comes to culture, it’s not about teaching everything to students, but rather identifying what is positive about our culture and rallying around it.

Kwitonda says a good teacher should be in a position to build a bridge between what students know and what they need to learn.

“For students, on the other hand, they should know that the success of any country depends on its people taking charge and making sure they leave it a better place for future generations. Cultural identify is one of the important ingredients offered at school and home as they grow,” he says.

Paterne Rwigema, the in-charge of sports and culture in education at the Ministry of Education, believes that the role of teachers is to mentor all-round students, noting that much as academics and sports are important to any student, knowing where they come from is vital as well.

“I think teaching students only academic knowledge but disregarding culture is not good because culture contains many values that are helpful in building a cohesive and progressive society,” he says.

Rwigema says schools should organise tours for their students to explore in the national parks and other reserves in the country, to enable them learn more on what is in their country.

“Museums provide great programmes for students to learn about different indigenous things. Besides, such tours help expand the general knowledge of students,” he says.

Rwigema adds that through such tours, a student is able to learn through touching and seeing, making it easier for them to remember than when they are only taught in theory.

Dr Kirimi Sindi, a parent and Kigali resident, says a creative teacher should be able to identify which aspects of culture are good for students.

“When students are more aware of where they came from and the values that bind them together, they learn to reflect upon their own culture as well as cultures of others in general. In a school where they have students from different backgrounds, it can be an opportunity to learn about other people’s history and culture, which creates broad knowledge about the diversity between students,” he says.

The curriculum integrates Rwandan culture in all levels of education, starting from primary through secondary school level.

According to officials, this is done though teaching in Kinyarwanda, which apart from being a subject of its own; it’s through it that students get to learn about meaning of some things and what they represented in the past, which is just one way of promoting cultural studies in schools.

Shakila K.Umutoni, a local author thinks that when students don’t have access to their history and culture, they risk loss of identity.

“People feel like they belong when they can trace their roots. It’s important to rediscover this and teach it to younger generations to help preserve our culture,” she says.

For instance, Umutoni says one of her books known as ABCs, which she co-authored with Dominique Alonga, teaches children and students about their culture, tradition and history.

According to her, such books are another form of preserving our culture, noting that such knowledge used to be transmitted orally in the past.


Published : November 29, 2017

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