The secret behind academic excellence in faith-based schools

Names like Groupe Scolaire St. Joseph Kabgayi, Groupe Scolaire St. André, Ecole de Sciences de Byimana, Groupe officiel de Butare, Petit Seminaire de Rwesero, Petit Seminaire de Nyundo, Petit Seminaire St. Leon Kabgayi, Petit Seminaire Virgo Fidelis de Karubanda and Petit Seminaire Ndera among others barely miss out when the best performers are announced, writes Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti
 Student of Lycee Notre dame de Citeaux
Student of Lycee Notre dame de Citeaux

Names like Groupe Scolaire St. Joseph Kabgayi, Groupe Scolaire St. André, Ecole de Sciences de Byimana, Groupe officiel de Butare, Petit Seminaire de Rwesero, Petit Seminaire de Nyundo, Petit Seminaire St. Leon Kabgayi, Petit Seminaire Virgo Fidelis de Karubanda and Petit Seminaire Ndera among others barely miss out when the best performers are announced, writes Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

OVER THE PAST YEARS, Rwanda Education Board’s (REB) list of top performing schools continues to be dominated by faith-based schools owned by churches or run by nuns or brothers among other groups.

Names like Groupe Scolaire St. Joseph Kabgayi, Groupe Scolaire St. André, Ecole de Sciences de Byimana, Groupe officiel de Butare, Petit Seminaire de Rwesero, Petit Seminaire de Nyundo, Petit Seminaire St. Leon Kabgayi, Petit Seminaire Virgo Fidelis de Karubanda and Petit Seminaire Ndera among others barely miss out when the best performers are announced. 

The New Times visited one of the faith-based schools to find out the secret behind this continued success and talked to the school leaders, students as well as teachers.

Byimana Science School, (formerly Ecole de Science de Byimana) administered by the Central East Africa Province of Marist Brothers is located in Ruhango district in the Southern Province. On entering the school, one can’t fail to notice the serenity and silence as all the students are in their classrooms listening to their teachers.  

In the recently released results for the 2012 national exams, the school registered an outstanding performance at both Ordinary and Advanced levels according to the statistics from REB. It emerged the best in sciences with four of the top ten performers.

According to the Headmaster, Brother Alphonse Gahima, the success is from various factors including being a church-headed school which calls for a certain level of religious commitment among the students, high levels of discipline among the students and an efficient school management system among other factors.

“Church is a teaching organization by its nature, not only preaching the gospel but also by teaching formal education. Education was started by churches where there were parish schools, Catholic schools among others,” said Gahima

“The main mission of brothers and nuns or other organisations leading faith based schools is to impart education, and we base on the tradition of the church,” he added

“Administration is closer to the rest of teachers and students, we have no other magic way to perform better,” Hahima said

The school started in 1952 training teachers as it was a government priority at the time and later it became Ecole de sciences in 1980s. Having existed for a long time might have been one of the key reasons behind the performance but according to Gahima it is not the only reason since without efficient school management, age may count for nothing much.

Apart from the regulations from the Education Ministry, the school has its own regulations which according to the headmaster straighten the discipline further.

“Every mistake whether minor or major has its correspondent punishment. We never tolerate unruly students anyhow and this helps as many other schools have regulations but never implement them. For instance here, once one has reported to school, they can only go home when the term closes unless there is an emergency situation,” Gahima said.

 According to Faustin Nyandwi, a teacher who has taught in both faith-based schools and government ones said that the continuity of the success for faith based schools can be attributed to internal organization and collaboration of faith-based schools.

“They first effect discipline among the students and encourage  teachers to teach well while motivating them, normally teachers and students are the same as in other schools but how the schools are managed in what makes the difference,” said Nyandwi.

Denise Uwimana a Senior 5 student at Byimana Science School argues that the school is so helpful in that it occupies well. “Every minute here has its purpose, we don’t have time to waste. If we are in not class, we are busy doing other activities and each activity has influence on our general studies,” she said.

Anesie Umutoniwase, a librarian at G S St Joseph Kabgayi another Catholic-run school also pointed out that the reading culture in some of these schools is actively cultivated.

“If you see the rate of readership in our school compared to others, you will see that it is significantly higher. Students here are interested in reading. Sometimes they study in groups and their discipline is better,” said Umutoniwase.

When we asked Vincent Biruta, the Minister of Education why the faith-based schools regularly occupy the first places, he said they are various factors that make a school succeed.

“Faith-based schools such as those run by Nuns or Brothers take care of their students, have good leadership and monitoring, give time to the students and always pray for them,” said the minister.

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