At École Privée Marie Auxiliatrice in Kigali, the school has a couple working as teachers, and according to Sister Elizabeth Furaha, the head teacher, the couple is delivering effectively to students and so far they haven’t registered any issues with them.
However, depending on who you talk to there is divided opinion on whether schools should employ husband and wife as teachers. Proponents say employing couples may in fact increase motivation levels and good performance both in class and as a parent.
Opponents of this view say that having two lovers in the same school could also come with serious challenges that could compromise the performance of one of the couples and consequently the quality of education the learners get. In some countries, the policy is that husband and wife cannot teach in the same school. For Rwanda, there is no specific law on whether couples should teach in same school or not.
Likely impact of having couple in same school
Last year, Rwanda Education Board (REB), in consultation with teachers drafted a new teachers’ statute governing teachers in nursery, primary and secondary education, which was officially gazetted.
According to Claudine Nzitabakuze, the head of the Teacher Education Management and Professionalisation Department at REB, although there is no policy on rules and regulations governing couples who are teachers working in the same school, during their revisit on the statute, they might work on how to come up with clear guidelines concerning that.
However, Nzitabakuze believes that different teaching institutions are likely not to encourage couples to work or teach in the same school. He explains that this is because it can bring about a lot of challenges as far as delivering effectively to students is concerned.
“Personally, I will not agree with the idea of couples working in the same school. First of all, it’s common for such individuals to carry their personal issues to work. Although it’s not guarantee that this can happen, but as human being we always have issues which can be hard to control,” he says.
Nzitabakuze says the case is different when a couple is teaching in separate schools, as one can ‘hide’ their anger because the person whom they have issues with is not present.
Valens Mushinzimana, the in charge of discipline at Lycee de Kigali, says keeping the personal and professional fronts on the right track for the couple teaching in the same school may not be as easy as one may think.
“Although some couples can manage this, to some it can be the hardest thing to handle. Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of some problems experienced at home as a couple. Carrying them along to school is inevitable and it can affect the whole teaching-learning system,” he says.
Mushinzimana notes that this will not only affect the students, but also the other teachers and the couple itself. In the end, he says, the learners are the ones who lose because their teachers are distracted.
On the other hand, he feels that depending on how the couple carry themselves at school, working together can still work out. And that, what matters is the question of understanding what they want and what is best for the learners.
The other uncomfortable situation arises if a child or parent has problems with a particular teacher.
“Imagine how a parent or student will feel at the thought of having to face their ‘enemy’s’ spouse in the next level. This can complicate the relationship, and can lead a parent to opt to change schools in some cases,” he says.
Any advantages working together?
Eugene Rukyeba, the director of schools leadership and management at Rwanda Education Board, says from his experience as the in-charge of education at province level, he believes that couples can work in the same school and deliver perfectly well if they follow the set code of conduct, as well as school rules and regulations.
“I really don’t think it should matter; I think more important is treating your other co-workers (spouse or not) with respect and to behave as colleagues around each other - not as a couple. Follow ethical standards of confidentiality when at school. This can yield more positive impact on the students,” he says.
In fact, Rukyeba says it is even better if such a couple has their children studying from the same school. He points out that this can help them as a couple to find out challenges that might be hindering their children when it comes to learning.
“As parents it’s easier to track the progress of their children when they are close to them. Helping out with their homework, monitoring their school progress as well as attending their children’s school events such as sports and drama becomes easier. In the end such children are more likely to have higher achievement, higher aspirations and better attendance,” he adds.
With the same view as Rukyeba is Collins Barminga, a teacher of biology and chemistry at Mother Mary Complex in Kibagabaga, a Kigali suburb. He says couples working in the same school as teachers comes with many advantages.
“As a couple, it’s easier to put in a significant amount of their time and energy into each other’s work. They are able to help each other both at professional as well as personal level,” he says.
Barminga adds that being in a common school also means that the couple shares the same level of commitment and faithfulness towards the institution. This, he says, can help them have big ambitions and goals for such school as staff members, which is a major factor that helps both of them grow and excel in their career.
For Joseph Barugahare, a retired teacher who worked in the same school with his wife for over 20 years, success at work together was possible simply by treating each other with enough respect to give each other space.
He, however, says it was hard for him to concentrate whenever his wife was put into tough situations with difficult people. “It is very tempting to intervene in her defense, but I never did that to avoid undermining her abilities to handle her issues,” he says.
Barugahare says treating co-workers with respect and being mature enough to behave as colleagues around each other and not a couple are key.
“This comes with things like not hugging, kissing or holding hands, toning down any cosy talk and essentially moderating the relationship. It will never be absolutely clean and clear cut, but this definitely helps,” he counsels.
How to cope when teaching in different schools
Steven Burora, an entrepreneur and mentor at Youth Impact Mission, Kigali, says a couple is likely to spend a lot of time away from each other when in separate schools because of the tight work schedule, but they can still manage if they work closely with each other.
As teachers, he believes they have unique skills and knowledge to cope with such.
On the other hand, Burora says as any couple, teachers working in different or distanced schools can face may challenges due to the distance, which when not handled well, can affect their work. But to handle this, he says communication is the key.
“As usual teachers are always busy, in this case, couples should create a forum of communication, for instance, through social media platforms like twitter or WhatsApp depending on what they are comfortable with, so that they remain in touch,” he says.
Burora emphasises that technology has made it easier to communicate, which is the key to any health relationship.