A TEACHER who jetted out to Rwanda to help forge educational links with African schools has described his visit as an ‘eye opener’.
Lee Batchford, who is head of Oak House at Brunts Academy in Mansfield, recently returned from a week-long visit to the east African country which is still recovering from civil war 18 years on.
It led to the genocide of an estimated 800,000 people – a fifth of the population.
The trip was organised through the charity, the Aegis Trust, which works to prevent crimes against humanity.
Mr Batchford said: “We want to forge links so the students can have a penpal and email link.
“It was just so interesting to see how they have begun to rebuild the country after the genocide.”
It it claimed that most of the victims of the genocide were killed in the space of just 100 days.
It was the culmination of long-standing ethnic tensions between the minority Tutsi people, who had controlled power for centuries, and the majority Hutu people, who had come to power in the early 60s by overthrowing the Tutsi monarchy.
In April 1994 it finally came to a head when men, women and children were systematically murdered, most beaten to death by wooden clubs or machetes to save on ‘expensive’ bullets.
During his visit, Mr Batchford met with the minister of education and the deputy speaker of parliament, visited several schools to discuss his plans and memorials as part of ceremonies to mark the start of the war.
Without prior warning, he was also taken to a school where dozens of victims from the genocide have purposely not been buried and simply placed on benches and covered in lime.
Like many sites in Rwanda, its purpose is to prevent anyone from every denying the holocaust took place.
“It was a shock, I was not expecting it,” explained Mr Batchford.
“They are still finding bodies from the massacres.
“It is still very raw, and very sombre. The week was a real eye opener.”
He hopes that an aid worker who survived the killings after his parents walked him out of the country will soon visit Brunts Academy to speak with the students.
“It was great to see someone who had survived and was making a successful life for themselves.”