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Ms Jana Snoecks and Mr Dries Verclyte, two college students from Belgium, stayed in Rwanda from February to May for an internship with VVOB. They taught maths in upper primary, in line with VVOB’s current programme in the country. The knowledge and practice they shared with the (head) teachers in schools contributes to the government’s campaign on enhancing the awareness of quality education.

Learning from each other

Both Ms Snoecks and Mr Verclyte are studying to be primary school teachers. They taught in P4 and P5 at Akanzu Primary School and G.S Murama Primary School in Rwamagana District, Eastern Province. They engaged in different teaching practices: preparing lessons, teaching and assessing, among others. They focussed on learner-centred approaches while integrating the use of concrete, didactic materials available at the school, to assist learning of mathematical topics in line with the Rwandan competence-based curriculum.

Ms Immaculée Nyiranzeyimana is a P5 teacher at G.S Murama. She found this internship a good opportunity to exchange knowledge and skills. “The interns were very creative and innovative. For instance, they made a name tag for every student, so they could call everyone by name, which made the learning and teaching process easier. They inspired me a lot, I also adopted this approach because I don’t know all the children by name as I teach more than 80 learners every day”, Ms Nyiranzeyimana says.

According to Pilate Ntagarurwa, the head teacher of G.S Murama, it was a fruitful experience. “I observed Ms Snoecks and Mr Verclyte teaching and was really impressed by the way they managed to teach despite the language barrier. Mr Verclyte tried his best to engage and encourage students. He used a lot of illustrations such as drawings, signs, gestures and games, and students were very excited about learning maths”, Mr Ntagarurwa says.

Knowing your learners

Mr Verclyte believes that teachers should always try their best to cope with every situation. “I believe that motivated teachers can make a difference even in difficult contexts”, he notes. As a future teacher, Mr Verclyte believes knowing your learners is key to improve learning outcomes. “You should know what they do and don’t know. If you realise that some students are not able to follow due to certain issues you need to find out why and try to help them”, he says.

As for Ms Snoecks, a teacher should study his/her students first. “My expectations were too high in the beginning. When I adapted to the situation, I started seeing some changes”, she says. “When we realised that students had difficulties following in English, we tried to consistently use some key terms such as ‘plus’, ‘minus’, ‘multiply/multiplied by’, ‘equal to’… and students could follow”, Ms Snoecks explains. Ms Snoecks goes on to say that the experience taught her a lesson of “being happy of the little you’ve achieved and keep improving instead of blaming yourself for not achieving great things so fast or things you don’t have control over”.

Addressing the challenges

Language was the biggest challenge for Ms Snoecks and Mr Verclyte when they started interacting with learners. “Students could understand a few terms in English, but conversation was very difficult”, says Ms Snoecks.

Another obstacle was the insufficiency of desks in classrooms. Moreover, there weren’t enough teaching and learning materials such as teachers’ and pupils’ textbooks. “In the beginning it was challenging. In one of the schools it wasn’t easy to teach as some students were sitting on the floor and didn’t feel comfortable”, Ms Snoecks says.

According to Mr Ntagarurwa (head teacher), the school needs more classrooms to address overcrowding. However, he says this is beyond their capacity as a school. Regarding the lack of desks in a classroom, Mr Ntagarurwa plans on discussing with parents to buy new desks together. “We usually call for parent meetings to discuss such issues. I believe that with their support we can buy desks where they are most needed”, Mr Ntagarurwa says.

Quality education enhancement awareness Campaign

At national level, the Rwanda Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) started a campaign in February on raising the awareness of quality education. The theme: “Good learning methods, cultural values, ICT and innovation promotion are the foundations of quality education’’.

The objective of the campaign is to reinforce awareness among district education officers, sector education officers, head teachers and all education stakeholders to mitigate education issues that impede the quality of education. The campaign raises awareness on outstanding issues in education such as school dropout and repetition, weak school management and leadership, professionalism and efficiency in teaching and learning, use of ICT in education, among others.

During the last campaign in May, which VVOB Rwanda also participated in, a number of schools were visited. Reports revealed that there are some areas of concern that require special attention and improvement. One of the issues that needs immediate action is overcrowding. In response to this, MINEDUC started building new classrooms and making school desks urgently. The ministry announced that over 100 classrooms will be built, and 34,000 school desks will be made in three months, while making more efforts to construct additional classrooms and provide desks.

VVOB’s contribution

To address some of the issues that the campaign focusses on, VVOB provides strategic support and capacity development to the Rwanda Education Board (REB) and the University of Rwanda – College of Education (UR-CE), both on teacher professional development (pre- and in-service) and school leadership.

Currently, VVOB Rwanda facilitates continuous professional development courses on Effective School Leadership and Educational Mentorship and Coaching in 17 Districts, both in primary and secondary education, in collaboration with REB and UR-CE.