Karangwa, the teacher who makes his students live with Mathematics

Many a student will whine and snarl when Mathematics comes calling. They say the subject is just not their thing. They say they just can never muster the brain to solve an algebraic equation. But Jean Marie Vianney Karangwa not only has no place for such attitude but is also on a mission to erase it from the minds of all those who come under his tutelage.
. Karangwa is passionate about Mathematics and has a ‘special’ way to teach it.  The New Times/ Jean de la Croix Tabaro
. Karangwa is passionate about Mathematics and has a ‘special’ way to teach it. The New Times/ Jean de la Croix Tabaro

Many a student will whine and snarl when Mathematics comes calling. They say the subject is just not their thing. They say they just can never muster the brain to solve an algebraic equation. But Jean Marie Vianney Karangwa not only has no place for such attitude but is also on a mission to erase it from the minds of all those who come under his tutelage.

However, this is Mathematics we are talking about. This is a subject that is hated by two in three students world over. Saying Karangwa is climbing a snow-capped mountain in his sandals is not an overstatement. Yet he remains unwavering in his dreams, hoping that with a tinge of work ethics, he can get Mathematics ingrained in the hearts of those who go through his chalk and instruments.

“There is nothing difficult in Mathematics nor in being an excellent teacher, the most important principle is to be at a right place and to do the right thing at the right time,” he says.

This principle guided Karangwa in his favourite subject from A-Level at Runyombyi High School and later at Kigali Institute of Education—now incorporated under the University of Rwanda—where he majored in Mathematics for his education degree. It is this same principle he applies that spurs his career as a teacher of Mathematics in Saint Vincent Palotti Gikondo High School.

Karangwa has been teaching at the school since February 2009, and if recent evidence hold, he is not just any other Mathematics teacher, but one who actually leaves lasting impressions on his students.

Recognised

On October 5, at the World Teachers’ Day celebrations, Karangwa was left in awe at the realisation that his modus operandi is much appreciated by the core of students and fellow teachers at Saint Vincent Palotti. He emerged the best teacher in Gikondo Sector as Rwanda Education Board rewarded teachers from school, sector to district level. The Rwf500,000 worth of a cow that he received for the prize of his teaching excellence became a prized baby item. It is his first possession of that kind.

“The secret to make students win this subject is to give them a lot of exercises. I make sure I give as many as possible. Even my punishments go in this way,” Karangwa says. “I am now teaching Senior Three students. To make them love Mathematics, I engage them in a mixed group with strong, middle, and weak students in the subject and they help each other to effectively handle my exercises.”

The man and his roots

Thirty-two years ago, Karangwa was born to Evariste Ndiramiye and Geltrude Kabakesha of Busanze Sector in Nyaruguru District. The second born in a family of four siblings attended Nyarusange Primary School in his village. From his primary school days, Mathematics was ‘not in his blood’, as the naysayers tend to believe. But while at Group Scolaire Runyombyi for his O-Level, Karangwe fell in love with the subject. He says the environment in the school was inspiring.

Since then, his fate has been intertwined with the subject of his love.

“Indeed, Mathematics is in my blood now. Every exam that comes around I pass it excellently. I am never worried when it is about Mathematics because it’s not an issue of luck; Maths is my subject,” Karangwa says.

Today, one of his tricks in class is ‘positive punishment’. For instance, if a student made a mistake, Karangwa gives them homework to keep them busy during the weekend. He says this system works with most students, even though some usually slacken and sulk at being ‘punished’. But Karangwa does not leave things at that; he goes further to explain to them that the punishment is to help them be more engaged than idle.

Madeleine Mukandayisenga, a senior three student, has been taught by Karangwa since she was in senior one. When we visited her last week, from her home in Gikondo, she was doing Mathematics exercise on a family blackboard.

“My four classmates have just left. We have been revising Mathematics because we want to score high during the national exams,” she said.

Mukandayisenga said at least 80 per cent of her classmates do well in mathematics. She said Karangwa is “such a good teacher, he teaches us in a way we comprehend everything. We are not bored with his abundant exercises; he is more than a teacher—he is a friend to us.”

The head teacher, Sister Anastasie Nyanzira, said Karangwa’s know-how and discipline at work is commendable, adding that the Mathematics teacher has an absorbing social character that makes him a friend to all the staff and students.

She said: “He loves everybody and in return, everyone loves him. Even students feel free to chat with him despite his discipline and rigour when dealing with them.”

Sister Nyanzira said for the first time, last year, the school had a student topping the Kicukiro District tests. She attributed this turn of fate to Karangwa’s zeal and enthusiasm.

Last year, the school awarded Karangwa a certificate of recognition, and, this year, his colleagues at sector level chose him as the Teacher of the Year in Gikondo Sector.

Big dream to own a school

Karangwa is a man who chooses his words carefully, more like it is with shy people. But this coyness veils his ambitions.

He said: “I want to save money in such a way that five years from now, I can start laying the foundation of my own school.”

He is not bothered by how he will save so much to start a school. He says Mathematics will do the trick, insisting that saving is not as difficult as it sounds. For his wedding, last year, he saved more than Rwf2.5 million. And after the wedding, he acquired a plot of land at Ruyenzi in Southern Province at Rwf1 million.

However, before he even puts a roof to his own home, he is eying a master’s degree in Mathematics from Mount Kenya University next year. He hopes the papers will get him a job as a lecturer at a university.

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