Document Type



Master of Science


Educational Leadership

First Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Roger Geertz González

Third Advisor's Name

Eric S. Dwyer


Civil War, Genocide, Rwanda, Higher Education, Students

Date of Defense



Education is a fundamental basic human right with power for social transformation. It is the catalyst of development that gives shape and structure to citizens. Moreover, education is one of the strongest building blocks for development and the most important investment any country can make. The pursuit of higher education is considered a prestigious and noble undertaking as well as a privilege in most developing countries. However many of these developing countries face a deepening crisis caused by the instability resulting from political repression, conflict, civil wars, and genocides.

The purpose of this research was to study the role of the civil war and the genocide on higher education in Rwanda. Using a qualitative case study approach, the study took an in-depth look at National University of Rwanda (NUR). The state of Rwanda’s higher education is best reflected in the condition of NUR, a public institution that is older than most and is relatively stable (Teferra & Altbach, 2003).

Data collection took place in Rwanda between May 2010 and July 2010. A total of fifty one individuals, comprising of students, faculty and NUR’s top administration actively participated in the study. Fifteen individual interviews and five focus groups, combined with an analysis of existing documents on Rwanda’s higher education and observations of people’s conversations and interactions, classroom activities and NUR’s physical settings including buildings, space allocations, existing resources, and objects were conducted.

Findings indicated that Rwanda’s higher education was significantly impacted by the civil war and genocide. Destruction of infrastructure, loss of faculty, trauma, mistrust, segregation along ethnic lines, increased absenteeism, poor academic performance, decreased quality of education, and student stigmatization were prevalent. Findings also suggested that the genocide has been a major factor in determining the educational practices and policies in existence in Rwanda. The introduction of the new language policy and student mandatory solidarity camps, ingando, which have greatly affected the socialization of students, were as a result of the genocide.