Its rare to find a classroom, nursery, or primary, where children are not sat, aligned in their desks, facing their instructor, who is usually in front of them. With a stick in one hand and chalk in the other, the teacher is often times backed with a black chalkboard and books to read to their students. These are usually called teaching materials and techniques, at least it is so in Rwanda. Jan Brown, however, believes that instead of teaching materials, there should be learning materials in the classroom. It is actually the same as what the Rwandan government is trying to establish, she says when asked what it means. “Lets call it CBC (Competence-Based-Curriculum), where the teacher is a facilitator, a friend, and a learner as well, rather than a tyrant pushing kids to memorize things that are sometimes much beyond their level. The difference It is in this spirit that Jan Brown, founder, and president of TEACH Rwanda, created Bright school in 2012. This school in Muhanga district, in southeren Rwanda, follows a unique curriculum. It has pre-school, Early Childhood Development, and Primary school. It was created under TEACH Rwanda, a Non-profit originally based in the US but operating in Rwanda as an NGO. Its mission is to enrich the education of children from an early age while also empowering teachers’ education and experience. Jan Brown, founder and president of TEACH Rwanda. Bright school is undoubtedly a bright place with bright young souls. It is a place full of life and beaming smiles. For an outlooker, it may appear to be a chaotic environment with kids dispersed all over the place, with no proper arrangements of desks and teachers ruled over by students. But at Bright School, this is the way of functioning, of learning. “Students learn through play and real-life experiences,” Brown says. Eunice Atete, one of the pioneers of the school, studied there from nursery through her final year of primary school. She says she enjoys school particularly because of how they are treated with respect, listened to, and shown real-time what they are taught in the classroom. In a previous interview with The New Times, she said, For example, in our recent session, we learned about carpentry. We went to a workshop, learned and saw their equipment, and then acted like carpenters, learning how to do it in real life, which I absolutely loved. Atete said that the same was applied to the rest of the themes. In the school’s special program, students are guided by themes that range from Agriculture, Climate Change, Nutrition, Robotics, land surveying, and many others. “Under a specific theme, they learn the mathematics in it, the biology, the physics and so on but in a practical way not just theoretical. This allows creativity and sparks curiosity, instead of just inducing them to memorization” Brown noted. P1 students learning construction work. Students, however, still have to follow the usual program established by the Ministry of Education in Rwanda and are evaluated by NESA, National Examination, and Inspection Authority, like the rest of students all over the country. The school’s first cohort will graduate from primary school this year. There are two preschool classrooms at Bright School, each with two teachers. They share four classes, by taking turns studying the morning and afternoon shifts. There are also seven primary school classrooms, each with 22 pupils in lower primary and 24 pupils in upper primary, and each with one teacher. There are a total of 12 teachers, one of them being a teacher mentor. Teachers collaborate and are mentored by partner reviewers from the US. The Muhanga campus however, needs to be enlarged as the number of students continues to rise. Anyone wanting to support and assist in any way with the expansion is invited to do so. The majority of the 230 students at the school are on scholarships, sponsored by Grants and donations from well-wishers and education enthusiasts. While this allows for the teachers work to be compensated, Brown and William Whipple, Browns husband and TEACH Rwandas Business Representative, are not paid for their contributions. In their late seventies, the two are retired educationist and doctor respectively. They are volunteers at Bright School and have been living in Rwanda for over 10 years now, ever since the inception of the school. The concept of the school was originally an idea of Brown’s friend and former colleague, Louise Batamuriza. She was a former teacher who went to Brown for help in starting an ECD in Muhanga, where she currently resides. However, she became ill soon after and was unable to keep up with the school, so Brown took over. “I have witnessed Rwanda’s growth and drive to achieve development. To do so, we need to raise new generations of knowledgeable leaders who can think critically and independently, Brown added. We wont be able to realize that ambition on our own, especially at our age, she continues, therefore this should serve as a demonstration for others, not to be driven by money but by the impact that an effective education can have on an individual, a country, and the entire world. “This has been applied for more than 70 years in other countries, so for a country like Rwanda, there’s no time to waste before we invest in Rwanda’s future by investing in Rwanda’s children,” she concluded.