Understanding Critical Thinking

By David Kezio-Musoke

During conflicts youth are more likely to be manipulated into committing crimes against humanity partly due to lack of skills to make informed decisions. Never Again Rwanda converges youth through the Peace Building Institute (PBI) from different parts of the world and on the program the component of ‘Critical Thinking’ is often added.

According to the organizers of PBI, through acquiring critical thinking skills the participants are trained to create an impact in their respective communities and make informed decisions.

“One of the reasons we added ‘Critical Thinking’ to our regional PBI program is mainly because most of the youth in the Great Lakes region are easily manipulated because of their lack of the ability to critically think. They can’t ask, ‘if I do this, what are the consequence of my actions?’ Some cant make informed decision. ‘Critical Thinking’ skills help them develop empathy and also tolerance,” says Debbie Karemera, the Coordinator of PBI.

“You also need to know that around the region we have lots of cultural diversity and young people grow up with different stereotypes. With Critical Thinking skills one can be able to respect diversity. We add this component to the ‘Regional PBI Program’ because it mainly affects the participants from the region,” she added.

According to criticalthinking.org, “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”

During PBI, NAR introduced the critical thinking approach through debates, role-plays, dilemmas and barometer of values (taking positions according to various positions). The sessions are participatory whereby the participants are tasked to define critical thinking in their own words of which key words are highlighted.

The writer is a Communication Consultant with Never Again Rwanda and can be reached on email kezio@neveragainrwanda.org


Participants are usually encouraged to define on their own what they know about critical thinking. Some of the responses included, “disciplined thinking, clear, rational, open-minded, informed by evidence, willingness to consider, willingness to integrate, alternative perspectives, new or revised perspective’s, our ways of thinking and acting as well as the willingness to foster criticality among others.”

The relevance of critical thinking is usually further explored by relating critical thinking to Peacebuilding of which it fosters empathy, appreciation for diversity, open-mindedness, overcoming stereotypes and prejudices, rumors and evidence, blind obedience, manipulation and self-responsibility.

This ‘Critical Thinking’ exercise enabled participants to engage in a friendly debate on whether they agree, disagree or are undecided with this statement. The main aim of this exercise is usually to provide participants with an opportunity to think deeper about their responses and through sharing their experiences some of them ended up being convinced otherwise.