Skills lab in schools; what you need to know

At the age of nine, Shammy Keza, a grade two pupil at Kigali Harvest School, can make different hairstyles. She does this during her free time at school with her fellow pupils.

At home, Keza also enjoys styling her mother and big sister’s hair. According to her, doing this helps break the monotony and at the same time utilise her time well by doing what she likes most.

Just like Keza, education experts believe that there are many students whom, when nurtured or monitored, helps them discover their hidden skills, which at least every student has other than just academics.

This, they say, can be done through skills labaratories, a ground for practical learning in any field of study. Here, the skills are put into practice and gives rise to various clubs later. 

equipping students with skills outside the classroom like acting and prepare them for a competitive job market. Net photo.

Although the skills lab is contained in the new competence-based curriculum (CBC), educators say it has not been harnessed, and has mostly been thought to be something done by students who are in technical schools.

According to Ronald Wandira, the head of the Humanities department at Riviera High School and the year leader, advanced level, at Rwanda Education Board (REB), it entails the belief that in the entire institution there is  no student without a skill.

For him, the skills learners have can be discovered once they establish a skills lab in schools. It is normally done after classes, where students can go for activities such as basket weaving, pottery, brick making using different materials, among others.

The time normally wasted after classes can be used for discovering students’ talents or the hidden skills they have.

For example, Wandira adds, some students are prefects or have a leadership role in their various schools, but they don’t have a chance to be gathered as students who have leadership skills, so that they are talked to and mentored to become who they want to be.

“So whenever school ends or they have breaks or during holidays, they use the entire time to play or do other activities that are not related to what they have as an individual,” he says.

He observes that this is the norm in many schools, where learners have to study theory and other aspects during the normal class subject they always have daily.

This can be seen in many cases where learners, after they are done or have completed their studies, go home without learning any skill, put into use or discovered.

“A case in point can also be teaching students how to make different handmade crafts, and from there, they are taken into industries that do different products; you really find that they come up with such a skill that can be beneficial to the whole country,” he adds.

How it should be done

John Nzayisenga, the director of Good Harvest School believes that every subject is a skill, and that skill can only be tapped in case there are skills laboratories in all education institutions.

In a day, he says, when it’s time for skills lab, all students of different skills should go in their specific locations.

This could include those with skills in knitting, hairdressing, making wooden toys among others.

This, he says, ensures that at least every learner at school has a skill. In most cases however, this skill is not given priority.

Nzayisenga  says to achieve this, there is no way an educator will go on asking each student what their skills are; but rather, they should give an open ground for each one of them to exercise what they have.

Although this is how one can discover what some of them will be doing in the future, he adds that the challenge students with the same interest and likes face is practicing while still at school.

When this is solved, he says, it helps students get out of school with acquired skills that will help build them on their careers and other skills as well.

Isaac Ddumba, a teacher at La Colombiere School in Kigali says it’s important to know that skills lab is more of the skills and talents, not a career, since one has to study for the latter.

He revealss in most schools, fine arts is not taught, or even thought of as a serious subject in the academic life of a student, yet it is one way to bring out what students are good at.

“This skill is completely ignored, the best that is done today is going to class with notes and pump learners with them forgetting that in the same class, they have learners of different abilities, potentials and skills,” he says.

He adds that students might not go to University for this skill as it’s inborn. All they need is to harness, given the opportunity.

Just like students, Wandira says teachers also possess diversity but lack a platform to use the diversity they have in student’s skills.

He says once it’s programmed, added on the timetable and included in the school curriculum, t every teacher will take part.

He mentions that there are many cases of students leaving high school with totally nothing tapped into their head, and this is due to not getting an environment to practice what they are good at

“Once they are exposed or given the environment that allows them to tap into their skills, it brings creativity among them,” he says.

Teachers and parents’ role

For students, Ddumba says, it’s from their creativity that they become innovative to build the nation.

The other advantage, he adds, is that it prepares students to be self-reliant, because it is not all the time that people will compete for the few available jobs, as long as they have a  unique skill that they can do after school, without going to university or any other higher learning institutions.

At the same time, it breeds a nation of diversity. Ddumba explains that when students are in class, they study the same thing but when they move out and attend a skills lab, there will be more skills produced yearly from the students.

“This opens up the window for anything that the learner has in their head,” he says.

The role of the teacher, Wandira says is to monitor and supervise whatever skills these learners have that suit the society.

The parents’ role, he says, is to provide the necessary equipment or requirement every learner needs.

“When this is done every student will feel meaningful in school, especially for those who don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves in class. Once given the opportunity and do something quietly which is tangible; they will feel valued as well,” he says.

He goes on to add that through discovering their skills, learners develop the heart of appreciating one’s action because it complements what they have also put in place.

“This appreciation of diversity that everything shouldn’t be rigid is good because it leads to flexibility in their reasoning and the perception of their friends as well,” he says.

Overall, Wandira says, discovering a learner’s hidden skill should be commenced at an early stage. For instance, at the primary level, teachers can use this time to develop their skills.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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