For 32 years, Marie Beatha Mukabagema has taught science with distinction and pride. As soon as I meet her for the interview, I see swiftness, organisation and intelligence written all over her. And when I enter the classroom where she is conducting her lesson, I see charts and illustrations pinned on the blackboard and walls to aid the pupils’ understanding.
My first few minutes there are enough to make me understand why Mukabagema, who has been teaching since 1982, was recognised by the Ministry of Education for her distinguished service to the education sector last year. She has in the past received 2 laptops and over 10 certificates in recognition of her exemplary services.
Mukabagema wakes up early every morning to prepare for her lesson and makes sure she is at school by 6:00am. She then does a roll call to establish who is present or absent before starting to pass on her knowledge to the pupils. But that is not all. She is also keen to find out if the learners are following.
“The secret to being a good teacher is mastering what teaching and learning is. This is the only way you will tell if students understand you or not. It is better to move at reasonable speed so that you are understood by the pupils than rush through the syllabus without making much sense,” Mukabagema says.
She also highlights the importance of a teacher interacting closely with her students. Mukabagema says if the relationship is good, students tend to be more active in class and have the confidence to ask questions whenever they don’t grasp something. She also advises teachers to do research, consult fellow teachers and make use of past papers from different schools in order to keep on top of your game. She’s, however, quick to caution against cram work.
Mukabagema says students should be taught how to solve problems because that is a life skill.
“When an examiner twists or plays around with the language, a student who crammed will easily fail a simple question,” she observes.
Apart from teaching, Mukabagema is involved in community activities such as Umugoroba wa Babyeyi, a programme in which parents dedicate time to sensitise the young generation about a number of issues such as education, discipline and reconciliation.
Her advice to teachers
As a professional teacher, Mukabagema says it is important to train students to look for solutions to challenges. That way, they learn how to think and not cram.
She also encourages teachers to give monthly tests to the students in order to keep their brains alert and also help them shed off of examination fever.
The other key to success is time management. “Punctuality of the teacher is very important because it sets the pace at which students report to school and get settled for class,” Mukabagema advises.
As some people say, “Ignorance is the worst disease.” Mukabagema is aware of this and offers answers. She appeals to teachers to follow national, regional and international affairs religiously because it widens their knowledge base and comes in handy when students seem to be losing concentration during a lesson.
“You can always chip in an interesting world event during a lesson in order to recapture the students’ attention,” she says.
And to confirm her love for her country, Mukabagema signs off on a patriotic note. “It is necessary to teach students the importance of national programmes such as Umuganda and the history of their country among other things.”
Born in 1960 in Muhanga District, Southern Province, Mukabagema started teaching in 1982 after completing her studies from Kabyayi Teacher Training Centre in 1980.
She has taught at Ecole Primaire Mpushi in Kamonyi District, Ecole Primaire Bwirika in Muhanga and Ecole Primarie de Mbale in Shyogwe, Muhanga District where she is currently serving.
Mukabagema, the third born in a family of 12 children, is happily married with four children.