Jean Bosco Harerimana
MPhil in International Peace Studies, TCD
Jean Bosco was teaching with the University of Burundi and also volunteering with the Association of Peace and Human Rights when he applied for the Irish Aid Courtney Fellowship, which provides an annual sponsorship for a student from Burundi to pursue a Masters in International Peace Studies at Trinity College Dublin. He received the award for the acdemic year 2014-15.
I work as a junior lecturer in English language and literature to undergraduate students at the University of Burundi. I also volunteer for the Association of Peace and Human Rights where I work in a leadership role to enhance the work of civil society organisations in Burundi. This is very important to me as I grew up in the context of a civil war and I have been involved in civil society organisations since I was a teenager.
The junction of the two jobs is that in both roles I am working with young people. I like lecturing because it is shaping the minds of a new generation. Students are enthusiastic to follow and it is our role and pleasure to help them in the process of building their capacity to be the future leaders. Since I play a leadership role in for a civil society organisation, the course is equipping me with skills in peace building and reconciliation. Using the theoretical knowledge and practical skills that I am learning will be very relevant to my local context in Burundi.
The course encompasses themes such as peace building and preventing violence at both local and international levels. The learning style is student centred with a practical approach; students are allowed the time to express their views which are valued by the lecturers. I plan to share my acquired knowledge both in academic and also in civil society areas. A branch of conflict and human rights studies has been established in my University of which I will be one of the key staff members. Last year, there was also a new development in Burundi with the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which will investigate the past human rights abuses during the war. Burundi does not have enough human resources qualified to do this; following completion of my course and my return home, I think that I will be one of the key resources for the Commission. The MPhil equips me with research and analytical skills which will be useful.
The Government and other organisations are always looking for local people that can do the job or who can contribute, but sometimes the resources are unavailable. I think that I will be able to network with other organisations and with government agencies which are working in the same field to build a network that can better deliver on their results. I will go to Northern Ireland to get first-hand information that I will be able to feed into the local context in Burundi. I will apply lessons learned from the peace process in Northern Ireland to my own country.
For my thesis, I have chosen to focus on transitional justice mechanisms. I want to contribute through first hand research to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on what are their strengths and weaknesses and what are the expectations from civil society.
I am optimistic about the future of my country. We have been through a long process of internal violence but I hope that we will be able to recover from the traumatic past and emerge into a new peaceful and prosperous nation.
The Irish Aid fellowship opportunity has been invaluable to me and my country which is landlocked with very few financial resources. Prior to my course, I had little knowledge of international trends that underpin development, peace building and conflict resolution. On my return, my work will change in terms of strategic orientation, planning and implementation.