Teaching about Martin Luther King in Rwanda


For the past few days I have been teaching my students about Martin Luther King. It was a challenging lesson to plan for because some of my students struggle with a basic understanding of the English language and some are really advanced (keep in mind my age range of students is probably 11 years to 19 years old). Despite the language barrier we managed to have some really great discussions about racism and how the color of your skin doesn’t determine what kind of person you are. I think this is a really valuable lesson to reinforce since the entire premise of the genocide was to eliminate a group of people who were labeled as “different.” It was also a good lesson for them on American culture because many of my students insist that only white people can live in America. I showed the class a picture of Martin Luther King and a student told me, “But teacher he is black so he is not from America.” Even if they don’t master English grammar and pronunciation over the course of the next year I am adamant that they learn that American society is not composed entirely of white people. They have also informed me that America doesn’t have any farmers and because we all own cars there are no bikes.

Ok, back to the MLK lesson. We read part of his “I Have a Dream” speech and after I asked the students to think about their own dreams and what they want to do after they finish school to change the world. It was a rather difficult task and a majority of my students handed in their notes (so pretty much a biography of MLK and the definition of the Civil Rights Movement) instead of the actual assignment because they couldn’t come up with anything to write. However, a small percentage of the 120 were able to come up with a response and I have compiled a collection of responses divided into four categories.


Question: What is your dream? What do you want to change about the world? What will you do after you finish school?


Best Responses

• My dream is to help some people to pray to God. In our world I want to change the minds of some people. I want to help all people to know that our God is the one God and God is created all of us there are some scientific know that “we come from monkey.” Monkey is animals created by God and us are created by God. When I will finish my study if God wish me I can become pastor and be promoter for my God. God bless us, God help us.

• I will dream which is to be rich which I have a car, airplane, a big house and my house was clean and big, I want to help the poor and the sick

• I have a dream to go to university in America

• My dream is that I need a full study, a good life, to be rich, and my dream, I have every day last two years I am a teacher of école secondary.

• I want to help sick, I want to help poor, and I want to teach children.

• I have a dream to be president, I will avoid violent, help the persons in Africa to avoid colonization, the object is democracy and good government

• The change on the world is poverty because increase of people don’t have food

• My dream is to understand English

• I have a dream to be a doctor and live in America

• My dream is to help the ministry

• I want to be a mother

• I want to be a policewoman and help people

• I want to be a pilot


Funny/Random Responses

• I want to be player (I asked him if this meant football player and he said no, just a player and winked- it’s amazing what these kids do and do not know)

• You are a very good teacher because you understand English

• I do want sport because I sport the best

• Time is money, the book is mine, to know ledge is wealth, time will tell

• My name is Martin Luther King (only response on a blank page)

• Help the suck (?)

• Kalissa is a small boy

• You haves some pretty hairs upon your head (I suppose I should be grateful for the compliment?)

Saddest Responses

• I can’t change our world because people not have heart, and work genocide, and fake words, and no our prosperity, and no humanity

• My dream is to pray to God – I want to change the mind of some people go to kill because there is much death


Most Creative Response

I have a student who is deaf and I know that it is really hard for her to follow along with my lectures but her response was amazing! There was a portion of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the board and she changed it to be her dream, it didn’t all make sense but still a really cool idea:


• Sweltering with the heat of misery all the deaf, they have be course and I have deaf be transformed into an oasis of freedom, they have all deaf students in Kigali city, association study in problems of secondary problems deaf students, their characteristic I have in dream to every person, and society dreams that every person have every right.


Overall it was a really neat experience and a great chance for me to get to know my students. I hope that everyone back home had a wonderful MLK day!


3 responses »

  1. Suzi, you’re making history! Remember “Dream not of other words” in Milton’s Paradise Lost (the line that always gives me a knot in the stomach)? You’re teaching these kids the importance of dreams. You’re teaching them poetry and how to let their imagination soar. There aren’t more important lessons than these. I’m so happy I came upon your blog (yea, Facebook!). Happy 2012! Hugs and love from snowy Iowa!

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