On Wednesday the 16th July a group of teachers set off to Rwanda. The aim of the trip was to focus on the teaching and learning of teachers and pupils in our linked school, Isha Primary. We also had a very intensive teacher training course where we helped and trained teachers from local schools. We started our trip with two nights in Kigali where our first outing focused our minds on the context of our work. In the words of the United Human Rights Council logo: ‘Educate yourself and others to instigate change in the world’. The experience of the Genocide Memorial is both urgent and heartening: visited by nationalities from all over the world there is the potential to ensure such events are never ignored again. And there is always the easy-going nature and smiles of locals.
We then travel to Kamembe in the South West corner of Rwanda on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This brought us to our home for the next two weeks, ‘Munezero House’, the Rwanda Aid base in Kamembe. The name means House of Joy in Kinyarwandan, an emotion that is embodied in the place and all around us as we pass through these beautiful lands full of contented people.
Following a warm welcome at the airport and having been to the house we were soon off to the village for disabled children – Ngwino Nawe Children’s Village. Those of us who had visited before were struck by the progress several of the children had made through the physio they had undertaken. We were met by children whose situations seem so different to ours, yet they expressed such unbridled joy in meeting us and performing some dances and gymnastics for us. A truly memorable day.
The cry went out that we were coming some time before we got there. Driving into the site we were flanked on both sides and as we stepped out of our vehicle we were greeted by hundreds of curious and excited faces to the tune of ‘Hello Guests’. Our first task was to meet with the Head of School and the teachers to allow them to explain their set up and the issues they face in teaching so that we could be of practical assistance. It was fantastic to see a few of the teachers from last year’s teacher training course putting into practice what they had learnt last year .
Teaching Lessons at Isha School
A beautifully behaved P1 class awaited Mrs Willemse and Miss Scales. The children used their knowledge of counting to 20 in both English and Kinyarawanda, and bowled them over with enthusiasm and perception.
Mr Flood and Miss Skudowitz, the English teachers, had three lessons to teach: P4, P5 and P6 covering a range of topics. They started our day with a P4 class of bright faces who were both fascinated with and uncertain about our presence. The topic for this lesson, prepositions, lent itself to some interactive pair and group work, something which we are trying to encourage the local teachers to use more of in their lessons. They took the lesson outdoors, where children demonstrated their understanding of prepositions by standing in front of or next to their partner, for example. At the end of this lesson they were greeted and sent off with a song of thanks. The P5 lesson was on adjectives and Mr Flood used his expressive face to delight the children in demonstrating various adjectives. They particularly enjoyed his ‘scared’ and ‘angry’ expressions. Whilst at first reluctant to participate, by the end of the lesson most of the children were eager to engage and show us their work
Miss Hart and Mrs Alexander had a challenging but exciting morning – teaching Social Studies with a twist. The twist being teaching the P3 children in Kinyarwanda. This was not to be feared when working with a linguist, Miss Hart, a teacher at Lady Eleanor Holles School, had Mrs Alexander reciting animal names in no time. The lesson was with initially shy, yet enthusiastic students, who particularly loved a game of matching animal names and categorizing wild and domestic animals through play. They particularly enjoyed using their arms as elephant (inzophu) trunks and hopping around like rabbits (urukwavu). They also taught a P6 lesson about flags as a form of unity and community where students designed their own flags for Isha School – and how important the Rwandan flag, their classrooms, the pupils and the volleyball net were to them. Their final lesson was P5 on water and its uses where they employed a range of pair and group work activities. The students loved contributing, participating and drawing on the Lake Kivu case study picture on the board.
Painting at Ngwino Nawe – the Disabled Children’s Village
In and out of hardware stores, up and down ladders, scrubbing with wire brushes and coating walls with paint, not to mention dodging thunderstorms in the process. The intention is to give a more lively exterior to the Disabled Village and a bright scene for the children inside. When complete there will be an underwater seascape and the school’s name boldly displayed on the front wall, with a map of Rwanda and Rwandan patterns.
As term had finished on Wednesday, only a few students were still around – those who live at the children’s village permanently because they do not have families to go home to. The outside wall has been painted completely and now brightly welcomes visitors to Ngwino Nawe with an outline of both Rwanda and Africa. On the inside wall there is a beautiful seascape taking shape, which the children really enjoyed helping to paint. There will be learning aids as part of the mural – such as numbers and the alphabet so that the teachers can use the wall in lessons. In the process we discovered some great artistic talent in the students, as well as great initiative in creating straight lines with masking tape! It was also brilliant to see the older children helping younger ones throughout the afternoon.
Nkombo Nursery and Baho Neza Mwana Street Children.
After a short boat ride across the dewy morning Lake Kivu, Team Rwanda 2014 arrived at Nkombo Nursery. The children were ready for us, with even the littlest in their uniforms waiting to see what we had in store for them. Inside Miss Skudowitz, Mrs Willemse and Miss Hart had a range of pens and paper set out for the future Picassos, although by the end of the session it was doubtful as to whether the faces or paper saw more of the action… Sparkly hearts were also adorned in unusual places that they definitely weren’t designed for, but just showed the creativity and eagerness of the children. Mr Willemse, Mrs Alexander and Miss Scales led the others with games outside. After a tentative start with a rework of ‘Duck Duck Goose’, tunnel ball became a firm favourite with the children showing their competitive side with a few well-placed elbows.
We were then escorted back to our boat with multiple helping hands and a very friendly inkoko (chicken) who had accompanied us both ways across the lake.
A highlight of our trip was our visit to Baho Neza Mwana, a refuge for the region’s orphaned children who would otherwise be living on the streets. Here we were given a tour of the village and shown where the children sleep, learn skills like sewing, eat and play. With today being Friday, washing day, sunny spots on grassy banks were covered with clean clothes and linen left to dry. Two bags we brought over from the UK were the source of inexplicable delight; one contained loom bands and the other a collection of nail polishes, nail art pens and nail art tools
We gave the children, and staff, a quick tutorial on how to use the loom bands after which they demonstrated the technique to the children who quickly picked it up and effortlessly made bracelets, necklaces and other colourful accessories. Meanwhile, Miss Hart and Miss Skudowitz had great fun painting nails and adorning them with glitter and patterns. Some of the girls then took to painting their own toenails and even gave a few of us some interesting manicures. When we had exhausted our supply of loom bands and everyone was happy with their painted nails, the children performed dance routines for their guests before heading down to a football pitch the size of, well, a football pitch, set on the banks of Lake Kivu. The Rwanda Aid staff members led some warm-up exercises after which a competitive game of football commenced. Mrs Alexander and Miss Hart were brave enough to participate in the game and we’re still not sure whether the constant calls of ‘mzungo’ (white person) were the children’s way of telling each other to pass to or kick well away from them. Mrs Willemse joined some of the others for a game of volleyball and once both these matches were finished, the children all carried firewood (mostly on their heads) back up to the village. Shortly thereafter, Mr Willemse arrived with crates of cold drinks and a big bag of sweets which everyone enjoyed after this busy but brilliant afternoon. The wonderful children (and staff) of this village sent us off in such high spirits; they have left an impression that will not easily be removed from our memories or our hearts.
Teacher Training Course at T.T.C. Mururu in Kamembe.
Our morning began with a slightly anxious phone call from Peter, the Manager of the Rwanda Aid team here, explaining that today had been declared a national holiday in Rwanda (for Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan) and showing concern about how many teachers would realistically want to attend the training on what should be a day of rest for them. Nevertheless, thinking optimistically, we crammed ourselves into the weary Scorpio, determined to make the best of whatever awaited us. Although slightly fewer participants than we had anticipated were there at 8am, by the time we were ready to begin the first teaching session, most of the 60-odd teachers had arrived and, when given the choice to have the day off or continue as planned, most opted for the latter.
We cover a wide range of topics throughout the week including Pair and Group Work, ICT, Lesson Starters, Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic Learning, Rewards and Sanctions, Phonics, Displays, Assessment, Differentiation, Levels of Questioning, Mind Mapping and Lesson Planning.
To finish each day we participated in a debate. On the first day we modelled a debate for which the motion was ‘All lessons in Rwanda should be taught in English’ to show the teachers how they would be debating the following two days. The training was a huge success and the positive feedback we received from the teachers attending as well as from the Educational manager of the District made all the hard work worth the while.
Our time in Rwanda came to an end, and we want to thank everyone who has made these two weeks possible. The incomparable team at Rwanda Aid and Munizero House welcomed us as family members from the start and it is difficult to describe what fantastic work these wonderful people are doing. To Peter, Patrick, Alex, Isaiah, Felicien, Honnorette, Jonas, Claudette, Candida, Francoise, Faustin, Martin and Athenos, we say Murakosi Chane!
What we did would not have been possible without the generous support of the parents and pupils of Devonshire House School. The effect of your efforts is obvious, with beaming faces of children and teachers growing in confidence being only some of the visible rewards that result directly from your ongoing fundraising efforts. Thank you so much!
Sunset over Lake Kivu and the DR Congo on our first evening in Kamembe