FEATURED: Former EU President visits VVOB in Rwanda to discuss education,international cooperation

Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council and former Prime Minister of Belgium, visits one of the schools in Rwamagana. / Courtesy

From September 1 to 6, Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council and former Prime Minister of Belgium, was in Rwanda in his capacity as Goodwill Ambassador for VVOB – education for development.

The purpose of his visit was to gain further insights into current priorities in the education sector in Rwanda and to strengthen cooperation between VVOB and the Government of Rwanda in promoting quality education.

Shedding light on EU-African Union relations

Van Rompuy, VVOB’s Goodwill Ambassador since 2015, engaged in different meetings and activities during his visit in Rwanda.
These included a lecture at the University of Rwanda (UR) about the European Union (EU) in the contemporary world; EU-African Union relations; and education and development.

The audience included Prof. Philip Cotton, UR Vice-Chancellor, students and lecturers. In addition, Ambassadors, including the Ambassador of Belgium in Rwanda, Benoît Ryelandt Embassy, and Heads of Mission of EU countries in Rwanda and the EU Delegation, as well as different development partners participated in the lecture.

Herman Van Rompuy addresses a press conference. / Courtesy

According to Rompuy, the Africa-European Union relationship is about investing in people, prosperity, and security, where both Europe and Africa have common interests and are fully committed to maintaining their privileged partnership.

“The two continents are geographically close and need to work together to address key development challenges such as migration. Africa and Europe are neighbours and will always be connected. Therefore, strengthening the partnership and investing in human networks between the two continents will bring benefits from and for both sides.”

Rompuy further indicated that tremendous progress has been made in different areas such as continental integration through trade and infrastructure, collaborative research, student mobility between the two continents, and many more, adding that more still needs to be done.

Education and development

Discussing the ‘education and development’ theme, Rompuy highlighted that the quality of leadership is key to quality education.

“I’m here as a Goodwill Ambassador of an NGO, VVOB, a very special one in our country, active in training teachers and school leaders. Education is about people, engaging people is key for the quality of education and that’s why we focus on training teachers and school leaders. What we need is an education-led growth model. We need to enhance human capital. The quality of schools depends on leadership. We don’t need only a just a manager we need a motivated, engaged, inspiring leader. We need high-quality teachers and schoolmasters,” he said.

For Prof. Cotton, the UR Vice-Chancellor said the focus should be on youth. “We want to liberate youth, we want to create independent and liberated people. We want to sense transformation, we want to transform people. We see it in the work of VVOB!”

Visiting VVOB supported schools

Rompuy also visited Duha complex school, a twelve-year basic education school in Rwamagana District, Eastern Province.

At this school, three teachers including a mentor teacher, and two maths and science subject leaders took part in a continuous professional development (CPD) certificate course in Educational Mentorship and coaching last year. In addition, the headteacher and the deputy headteacher of this school completed a diploma course in Effective School Leadership. These CPD training programmes are offered by the University of Rwanda College of Education with VVOB support.

Aimable Mugisha is a school-based mentor at Duha Complex School.

He said: “At the beginning, all teachers had not understood the reasons for shifting from knowledge-based curriculum to a competency-based curriculum (CBC). After following a VVOB training we understood the benefits of this new learning and teaching methodology clearly. We also taught our colleagues, and all teachers now understand why it is essential to implement CBC. Teachers now impart knowledge more effectively and students’ motivation increased as a result,”

After touring the school and meeting students both in primary and secondary education, Mr. Van Rompuy commended teachers and school leaders for their efforts in improving quality education and encouraged them to keep up the good work. “In the classrooms, I saw the students working in groups. When I was a student, it was not like that. Through group work, we can see emulation, interaction, and dialogue. And you’re doing that not only with the learners but also among teachers, it’s impressive and it can only improve the quality of education and the learning outcomes.”

For Sven Rooms, VVOB General Director who also participated in the visit, achieving education goals requires collaboration at all levels. “During the presentations, I learned that the school reduced dropout and increased completion rates. It’s not something we can achieve as VVOB alone. It’s up to teachers and school leaders. They are responsible for the change. Seeing the motivation and devotion we have in this room, I’m very confident we will achieve all our goals. Congratulations to you!”

Meeting school leaders

Mr. Van Rompuy also met nine school leaders who gathered for a supportive professional learning community (PLC). PLC sessions are conducted on a regular basis and are a platform at sector level where school leaders meet with the objective of learning with and from each other through solving challenges and sharing good practices. A PLC is facilitated by a trained sector education officer.  

“This programme is helping us to improve school leadership and management. We are raising the level of accountability among stakeholders in education, especially teachers and school leaders,” said Janvier Nkeramugaba, sector education officer of Kigabiro Sector.

Rompuy expressed his feelings about how school leaders apply new knowledge and skills acquired from the training. “I’m very impressed by the methods you are learning in the VVOB-University of Rwanda College of Education programme and putting into practice in your schools. I can see they are making a difference: fewer dropouts and better results in the exams. We are doing all this to have a better quality of education. Education is key for having a job and a future, and if this method can contribute, it means our mission is a success.”

For Angelique Tusiime, the Deputy Director-General of Rwanda Education Board, ensuring that all children are in school, alone, is not enough. “We are currently climbing mountains, but we are managing to overcome all the challenges. We have to make sure all children go to school, and when they do, they receive quality education. What VVOB is doing is contributing to improving learning outcomes. Our teachers will all be able to teach better, and that’s how our learners can succeed. So thank you VVOB and the Belgian Government for the support.”

Van Rompuy supports VVOB’s interventions

Throughout his career, Rompuy has been an advocate for both development cooperation and education, believing the latter is a catalyst for the former. This is why he commends VVOB’s endeavours to improve quality education for all. He expressed his commitment to support VVOB when he became the organisation’s Goodwill Ambassador in 2015: “Quality education opened doors and created opportunities for me. Worldwide, quality education is pivotal in achieving sustainable development. It allows every child to realise his or her full potential. Together with ministries of education and education institutions around the world, VVOB’s interventions help ensure better learning for all children. That is why I support VVOB and I hope you will do the same”.

VVOB’s support to quality education services

VVOB - education for development has been sustainably improving education systems worldwide in partnership with ministries of education for over 35 years. VVOB supports the initial teacher education and professional development of teachers and school leaders in ten developing countries in early childhood, primary, general secondary, and technical and vocational education.

In Rwanda, VVOB has been implementing projects and programmes since 2003. VVOB works with the Ministry of Education, the Rwanda Education Board and the University of Rwanda - College of Education to improve the quality of basic education through enhancing school leadership and setting up an induction system for new teachers.

Since 2017, VVOB has been running a five-year programme, Leading, Teaching and Learning Together (LTLT), which aims to improve learning outcomes in basic education through improved school leadership and teaching in 17 districts in Rwanda. Through LTLT programme, VVOB has been facilitating a CPD diploma course in Effective School Leadership for school leaders to equip headteachers and deputy headteachers with the competences to fulfill their roles as school leaders. At the same time a certificate course in Educational Mentorship and Coaching is offered to school-based mentors (SBM), sector education officers (SEOs) and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subject teachers in primary and secondary education. In secondary schools, the CPD training programmes are part of the Mastercard Foundation’s  Leaders in Teaching initiative.

So far:

More than 500 school leaders completed a CPD diploma course in Effective School Leadership.

About 500 school-based mentors, SEOs and teacher training centre tutors attended a CPD certificate course in Educational Mentorship and Coaching.

Over 500 maths/science teachers benefited from a CPD certificate course in Educational Mentorship and Coaching.

By 2021, a total of approximately 1,300 primary and secondary schools will have benefited from the CPD training programmes, while 2,000 school leaders are expected to have benefited from the diploma course in Effective School Leadership. At the same time, 3,000 teachers including science teachers will have completed a certificate programme in Educational Mentorship and Coaching