The Government bid to recruit teachers from the East African Member states, to teach English Language and Literature is welcome. The development of English teaching is critical at this time of the country’s regional integration in the East African Community and indeed in the family of Commonwealth of Nations, whose most notable feature is the use of English as either official or national language. In some countries it serves both functions.
Today, Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) and Rukara College of Education are the only public institutions that train teachers of English and Literature, at degree and diploma levels respectively. Over the last ten years, KIE has been admitting relatively few students in the department of English and Literature mainly because very few students take English at “A “level. This is where the recruited teachers would fill the missing link.
In Kigali, so far, only Green Hills Academy, NU Vision High School, Riviera High School and King David Academy, all private schools, offer Literature at “A” level and expectedly most of their teachers are from Uganda and Kenya. The main reason for the state of affairs could be attributed partly to the lack of competent teachers in those subjects and mainly due to the attitude of education planners and historical language policy decencies.
With the recruitment of these teachers, who in my opinion must be sufficiently experienced, more schools should be able introduce English and Literature at advanced level so that in the near future well grounded students will be admitted in the ‘expanded’ departments of English and Literature in our tertiary institutions.
This way, we shall be able to gradually solve the problem of shortage of teachers in those key subjects. It must be noted, however, that Language and Literatures teachers are often in short supply in many countries including Great Britain, so policy makers should always think of innovative ways to ensure constant supply of teachers and effective approaches of teaching language.
Let’s maximize the knowledge and experience of our brothers and sisters from the region, whose work culture is well known. I am reliably informed by a senior official at Rwanda Development Board, who did not want his named disclosed, that the teachers from Kenya will act as “Mentors to our teachers of English who already have the necessary knowledge and skills but need some guidance”. I could not agree more with the gentleman because what we need to improve the teaching of the English language is the approach.
According to Joseph Rwagatare, a seasoned teacher of English and Literature, school administrator and writer, there is need to constantly revise educational policy on language teaching to suit the needs of the learners and to break from the historical approach. “ I always told my teachers and students, when I was a headmaster, that no one learns language in class alone but from maximum exposure to the language” Joseph says, underscoring the imperative of creating a culture of reading that starts in the classroom depending on the teachers approach.
This is what the mentors should do whether they come from Kenya or elsewhere; integrate Literature in the teaching of English through the primary school and lower secondary, and initiate other forms of language exposure through drama, music, debate etc. Teachers of English from Uganda and Kenya have been trained to do just that.
To get the best from these mentors, we need a more effective subject inspection system and requisite scholastic materials and other requirements than what I witnessed in one district in Eastern Province where the Education officer who doubles as the inspector is unable to neither visit schools as required nor provide professional guidance to teachers. We shall not benefit much from the ‘Bayobozi’ mentality but from a perspective of professional colleagues between inspectors and teachers or mentors with a shared vision. Let them inculcate in the learners and teachers the vast benefits of literature especially critical thinking, appreciation of its role in effective communication, promotion of culture and the Art industry.