IN last week’s column I shared with you part of what transpired when I tagged along with a team of educationists from Rwanda Education Board, DFID, UNICEF and VSO. The trip was aimed at having the different players in the education sector acquainting themselves with the different projects that are funded by the donor community.
The morning session involved a visit to TTC Kirambo where we met and interacted with several teachers who included Kemi Oluwa, a VSO volunteer. We later moved to the district headquarters where we had a brief meeting with the District Education Officer, Musabwa Eumene.
The jovial official started by commending VSO and its other partners for the support they gave to the district. According to him, this support has already had a positive impact on the performance of schools in the district. He talked about Nema and Cyeru sectors that had performed so poorly in the past but were now registering a notable improvement.
He credited this improvement to the vital intervention of VSO volunteers like Jayne Waithitu who goes around the district visiting different schools and training head teachers on how better to manage their schools as far as issues like data analysis, books teachers and money, are concerned. It had been identified that some schools were performing poorly simply because of poor management.
Another volunteer, Rachel Walmsley also traverses the district checking on different schools studying their teaching methodologies and advising teachers on how to improve their teaching techniques in order to improve the quality of their teaching. Rachel is always in touch with the district education officer with whom they plan and meet regularly to analyse the strengths and weaknesses in different schools.
It was impressive to learn that there is a clear strategy aimed at ensuring that the skills possessed by both Jayne and Rachel are passed on to the local teachers so that the process of improving education quality does not come to an abrupt end once the funding—that has seen VSO covering 21 districts—is interrupted. Sustainability is the word to identify with here.
During the same meeting Mr Damien Ntaganzwa explained the new process of textbook distribution. The process involves schools listing the books they need and then sending the list to the district education office, which then contacts the Rwanda Education Board for their acquisition. He explained that in the past, books would get to the district headquarters and spend months in boxes before they are distributed. However, that is now outdated as each school gets the books it requests for.
Just before we broke off for lunch, the volunteers as well as the representatives of both VSO and DFID lauded Burera District Education Officer as, “the best DEO in Rwanda” arguing that he is a very cooperative and hardworking man who makes time to visit all the schools in his district. I was personally moved by his passion for his job—he persistently used the phrase “our beautiful district, Burera.”
Before we could head back to Kigali we made a stop at Groupe Scolaire Kigeyo where we observed teacher Gratien, a Primary 1 to 3 Mathematics teacher, conducting a lesson outside his class. Gratien seemed to have mastered how to conduct a participatory lesson by offering the young boys and girls different tasks.
During the lesson it was interesting to see how he managed to get all the students involved and attentive even though the lesson was being conducted outside the classroom. We were later told that he also makes time to teach fellow teachers on how to conduct a model lesson.
The key lesson that I picked from my trip to Burera was that outside Kigali, there are efforts to ensure that school children access quality education and although there is a long way to go, the first steps have been taken.