“I believe no one can ever regret being a teacher.”
Jean de la Croix Kuradusenge, 45, rides his bicycle 20 kilometres every working day to teach at Rubavu District, Western Province, Rwanda. Many of his friends have left teaching behind for other employment, but Mr. Kuradusenge has been happy in the profession for 17 years. Why?
Teaching effects almost every one of us and, for Mr. Kuradusenge, it’s the reason he teaches today and why his students have continued on to higher education.
Imagine this kind of impact on a larger scale. If we consider that every teacher reaches thousands of young people over their careers, then investments in even one teacher can result in exponential gains in learning outcomes, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
More than 90 percent of countries across Africa face shortages in teachers for secondary education. And these shortages are getting worse. While the demand for secondary education increases, challenges, including teacher retention, remain.
We need to listen to teachers like Mr. Kuradusenge to understand why they teach, and work to recruit more passionate people into the profession and remove barriers to retaining them.
#WhyITeach by Jean de la Croix Kuradusenge, a teacher at G.S Mugongo, a 12 Years Basic Education school in Rubavu District, Western Province, Rwanda.
1. The teacher that made the difference
When I was in secondary school, we had a teacher who was very dedicated to teaching. He would pay much attention to our attitudes and behaviours and was very concerned about our learning, encouraging us to work hard to succeed in life. If something went wrong with a student, he would easily detect it, then approach him or her to find out more about the problem and advise accordingly. At some point, he would even contact their parents for further details and discuss a way forward. Since then, I started developing the idea of teaching. I felt I could also do the same to help children achieve something and succeed in their life. His attitude, advice, and encouragement made me fall in love with teaching.
2. Caring for students
A real teacher is dedicated and committed to help students grow, move from one level to another. Students are my friends, I always go back home happy because I have spent the whole day with my good friends — joking, laughing, having fun with them ... When I teach I feel like a brother to my students. So, I try to make students my friends so that they feel free to tell me their issues they have about teaching and learning. Additionally, I observe my students and when I realize that one is not following as usual, I try to find out why. Normally, when students feel happy about my lesson(s), I feel happy too.
3. Making a difference in the lives of students
When students succeed in life it is also my success as a teacher, and I feel uplifted. Their achievements boost my dedication and commitment to teaching. However, when a student fails my lesson, I somehow blame myself of not having done enough. This is why I always feel uncomfortable to teach when some of the students are not in class. I first have to find out what happened to the students who didn’t show up.
I once realised that one of my students in senior 2 had spent a month without coming to school. I decided to visit him, talked with him and his mother. His peers who had dropped out influenced him to quit school too, promising to help in finding survival jobs. I encouraged him to come back to school and he accepted. He completed secondary education and continued to university where he studied education. He is now a primary school teacher. When we recently met he told me, “I was completely lost, misled by my agemates, but you positively changed my life. I am who I am because of you. I have no reward for what you did for me; words cannot express how I feel. Your kindness is still fresh in my mind and will never leave. Thank you a million for being my teacher.”
This is just one example, I can recall many other students whom I come across and express their gratitude, telling me that I will remain the important person in their life. It is a privilege and honour to receive such kind of feedback. It shows me that my job is worth doing. It also gives me courage and energy to perform even better to continue transform more lives.
4. Earning a living through teaching
Many people say that teachers get paid little, but I believe that it all depends on how you manage what you earn. There are people who get paid far beyond the teacher’s salary but still complain. For me, I make small project proposals and apply for a loan from Umwalimu SACCO, a saving and credit Cooperative for teachers, which I manage to pay back with my monthly income. I recently requested a 1.6 million Rwandan Francs ($1800) cash advance for farming activities. My wife makes a follow up on the implementation of our projects. With small income generating projects I managed to build a house where I live with my family. I equally believe that my teacher colleagues can also improve their social economic welfare if they do a good planning.
Some of my colleagues resign from teaching jobs, but a teacher’s salary isn’t the only motivating factor for teaching; there are many more reasons that keep us in the job.
5. Recognition is motivating
I’ve always been recognised as one of the two most dedicated and well-performing teachers at my school. Last year, I was rewarded a laptop as the best teacher in Mudende sector, then as one of 12 best performing teachers in Rubavu district. Some of the selection criteria include dedication, punctuality, learning outcomes, attendance, motivating students to love school, improving one’s social economic welfare among others. Being appreciated by the school management, sector leaders and district officials before my colleagues gives me pride, courage, and assurance that my choice (teaching) was the best.
I believe teaching is and will remain crucial in our lives; everyone who undergoes education has to meet a teacher in one way or another. Teaching is the source of knowledge in all fields. There is nothing good than becoming a light for others. I believe no one can ever regret being a teacher...
Mr. Kuradusenge works with one the schools supported through the Mastercard Foundation’s Leaders in Teaching initiative that transforms teaching and learning in secondary education across Africa so young people have the skills and competencies they need to succeed in work and life. Leaders in Teaching works closely with local and national stakeholders in African countries and focusses on teacher recruitment, training, motivation and leadership throughout their careers.
In Rwanda, Leaders in Teaching is implemented by several partners including VVOB—education for development, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), and the University of Rwanda College of Education, in close partnership with the Rwanda Education Board. VVOB is implementing the initiative in 14 districts to equip school leaders, mentor teachers, education officers, and science teachers with effective tools and skills to lead schools, conduct mentorship and coaching activities in schools, to improve learning outcomes.
This testimony was collected by VVOB Rwanda (firstname.lastname@example.org).