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Becoming Rwandan: Education, Reconciliation, and the Making of a Post-Genocide Citizen

Global Education Colloquium

May 19, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

S. Garnett Russell, PhD
Teachers College, Columbia University

This presentation explores the understudied role of education in facilitating peacebuilding and transitional justice in societies that have experienced violent conflict. Drawing on the case of post-genocide Rwanda, Dr. S. Garnett Russell examines how the Rwandan state has attempted to use education to address the violent past and to build a peaceful society. Since the 1994 genocide that left more than 800,000 people dead, the regime in Kigali has viewed the education system as a powerful tool with which to address the legacy of conflict and foster reconciliation. Through an analysis of empirical data gathered from more than 500 students through questionnaires, classroom observations, and over 100 student interviews, as well as 20 interviews with teachers, Dr. Russell demonstrates the ways in which local actors, including teachers and students, respond to global and national discourses and shift the intent and meaning of these broader models. By exploring how national education policies are actually implemented at the local level in Rwanda, she uncovers major tensions and contradictions between policymakers’ intentions and the reality on the ground.

Dr. S. Garnett Russell is an Associate Professor of International and Comparative Education specializing in education in post-conflict societies. She also directs the George Clement Bond Center for African Education. Her research focuses on areas linked to education and conflict, peacebuilding, transitional justice, human rights, citizenship, and gender. Her current research project is focused on the role of education in promoting peace-building and transitional justice in Colombia. She has also conducted research on resettled refugees and newcomer youth in the U.S., human rights education in New York high schools, and the right to education for urban refugees in Ecuador, Lebanon, Kenya and other countries in the global south. In addition, she is the co-founder and former co-chair of the CIES SIG for Education, Conflict, and Emergencies and is also a board member for the Journal on Education in Emergencies and the International Journal for Human Rights Education. Dr. Russell’s recent publications have appeared in Comparative Education Review, Harvard Education Review, Gender and Education, Social Forces, and the Journal on Education in Emergencies. In addition, her book on education and peacebuilding in post-genocide Rwanda, Becoming Rwandan, is published with Rutgers University Press. She has received funding from the Spencer Foundation, Dubai Cares/E-3, the National Science Foundation (NSF), NSEP Boren, and the U.S. State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM). Previously, she worked as a policy analyst for UNESCO, as well as a consultant for other non-profit organizations including Save the Children and SRI International. Professor Russell has a Ph.D. from Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, an M.A. in International Development from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University.

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