Association des Eleves Rescapes au Genocide
The Tutsi genocide caused great loss, both in terms of human life and material deprivation. Those who survived continue to experience severe problems, including loss of family, physical disablement and psychological trauma.
These factors have serious adverse consequences for student survivors, including hopelessness, social isolation, educational failure and a high drop-out rate.
Although the genocide happened 16 years ago, its multifarious consequences still persist. Some student survivors are still homeless and must stay at school because they do not have anywhere else to go during holidays. They also lack transport, have financial problems, lack proper sanitation and have inadequate clothing. Many still suffer intimidation from those who support the ideology behind the genocide. There is also a big problem for these students in the market for jobs.
Student survivors have created an association with the purpose of finding solutions or remedies to the problems noted above. It is dedicated to providing financial help, moral support and ensuring that survivor students overcome trauma and are able to fight against this tragic event so that it can never happen again in Rwanda or anywhere else. Strength is found by joining together, so the students in question decided to create an association with the aim of coordinating the resources of student and pupil survivors in order to overcome the above stated problems. We have named it the Association Des Etudiants Et Eleves Rescapes Du Genocide (AERG)
1.1. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF AERG
AERG (Association des Etudiants Et Éleves Rescapés Du Genocide) is an association of student survivors of genocide created in 1996 at the National University of Rwanda. Now AERG is represented nationally at 26 Universities and institutes of higher learning and 272 secondary schools in Rwanda, with a total country-wide membership of 43,397. The national AERG coordination office is based in Kigali, which liaises with the AERG University and Secondary School AERG sections.
The main mission of AERG is to connect and represent all student survivors (those whose parents and relatives were killed during Tutsi genocide) involved in higher learning or attending secondary school. Originally, AERG was founded as a support mechanism for genocide orphans studying at secondary and higher institutions. However, its role has now expanded to cover not only support systems (in the form of artificial families) and morale-boosting actitivities, but also to advocate for the ongoing needs of survivors, supporting them in education (liaising with FARG – Government of Rwanda Assistance Fund for Survivors), with economic issues and onwards towards productive life.
AERG is now dedicated to providing financial support, moral help, fighting genocide ideology and ensuring that students overcome trauma, homelessness and financial problems.
AERG is an organization run by students for students and as such many people are involved on a voluntary basis. The executive committee at the national office consists entirely of voluntary personnel. AERG does, however, have 6 paid staff members based at the national coordination office: the Executive Secretary, the Social Affairs and Education Program Officer, the Accounts Secretary, the ‘One Dollar Campaign’ Project Manager, the ‘One Dollar Campaign’ Accountant and the Education into Employment Program Coordinator.
- Connect and represent all student survivors of the Tutsi genocide.
- Identify the academic and social problems encountered by student survivors of the genocide.
- Collect and forward relevant information on the welfare of student survivors and genocide perpetrators in their respective regions.
- Promote mutual material and moral help between members.
- Collaborate with people, associations and institutions on national and international levels to promote the welfare of genocide survivors.
- Build the memory of genocide, collecting and conserving the testimonies and any other related information.
- Fight against the negative ideology of genocide so that it may never happen again in our country or elsewhere.
- Bury the remains of genocide victims with respect.
2. PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED BY STUDENT SURVIVORS
a) Lack of Food and Shelter
The majority of student survivors lived without shelter after the genocide because not only were their parents and relatives exterminated, but also their houses were burned and destroyed. Some of these young survivors were in orphanages, others in adoptive families. Enormous numbers of children were forced to become barmen, houseboys and housegirls (whereby they were not well cared for) in order to get food and shelter.
Due to these miserable conditions, a serious number of children were subjected to extreme and brutal forms of violence. Many became involved with prostitution, drug abuse and there was a high rate of alcoholism. Due to these circumstances, there has been a high incidence of HIV and AIDS and unwanted pregnancies.
AERG is currently taking care of 125 girls from secondary schools and universities and is in the process of solving at least a small number of their problems. These girls are gathered in a family named UMUMARARUNGU.
b) Lack of Parental Care
Many of the student survivors were very young during the genocide period. When they lost fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, they also lost the care of their immediate families.
Even though the government has made an effort to pay for the studies of many of the student survivors through the fund known as FARG (Fond d’Assistance pour les Rescapés du Genocide), there are still several problems, which need particular assistance such as: Means of transport, Sanitation (especially for the girls), Clothing, etc.
d) Psychological Problems (Trauma)
Since the time of the genocide, the psychological damages commonly known as “trauma” are multiplying as time goes on. The young survivors of genocide have not escaped from this terrible situation. Loneliness, thinking about their survival experiences and other serious crises are faced, especially during the mourning period.
e) Lack of competitive advantage in the job market
Sixteen years on and the scars of the genocide remain. Many young survivors are orphans, having lost all or most of their family during the genocide. Those who get the chance to go to university (around 13%) face the challenge of securing a job in a fiercely competitive market on graduation.
f) Problems of funding staff costs
Much of our funding is restricted to being used for specific programs, rather than administrative or core costs.