Alternative education

“I studied my children, and they taught me how to teach them.” Maria Montessori slogan Maria Montessori was among the first women doctors in Italy. A high achiever whose core goal was to perfect education.

“I studied my children, and they taught me how to teach them.” Maria Montessori slogan Maria Montessori was among the first women doctors in Italy. A high achiever whose core goal was to perfect education.

Her great input bore what today is the Montessori school system. The Montessori system of education is based on the premise that every child carries within them the person that he or she will become.

In order to develop the physical, intellectual capability to the fullest, each child must have freedom – Freedom to be achieved through order and self-discipline. From a young age, children are guided to identify the things around.

The child is provided with materials and let to learn on their own. At every step of his learning, the teaching material is designed to test his understanding and to correct his errors.

Dr. Montessori discovered that the best way a child would be able to learn is when they  were self stimulated, and this formed the basis of this system of learning.

She cited in her work that children should be listened to then guided in education. Instead of teachers teaching the students guide the teachers on what they need to learn.

The Montessori system has been adopted by many schools across the world although many people are still ignorant of its presence. The Montessori system was first introduced in Uganda only in 2002 in Entebbe.

The Little Bears Montessori day care and nursery school is a pioneer of the Montessori education system in Rwanda. The Nursery School and Day Care was established to address the need of practical education in Rwanda.

After a survey, the directors of the school realised that parents did not have quality options for their children’s education. There was a need for an alternative education system for young children and that gave them an insight to introduce the Montessori system.

At the Little Bears the children are encouraged to discover themselves and things around them with guidance from their teachers. The children are provided with a learning environment then left to explore it on their own.

Sophia Kivumbi, the schools Headmistress says “We guide the children through practical and sensorial exploration. Practical life deals with things they do from home, how to walk, how to carry things, how to bend, how to smile, how to use works like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, table manners, how to laugh and a lot of other things. When it comes to the sensorial aspect we challenge them to use all their senses for example sense of smell and touch”.

The nursery school admits children from 18 months to 5 years. The children are guided in groups according to their age and each is taught at their own pace.

At 18 months the children are engaged in identifying their senses and basic social skills like how to dress, walk, and talk. As they get older other subjects like Math, Social studies and English are introduced. The school currently has 41 children enrolled for the programme.

“The benefits of a Montessori education form the basis of our mission. We are dedicated to preparing our children to learning and coping successfully with life’s fundamental skills. We provide the children with materials to learn. The teacher’s role is just to guide them through it, we do not teach we let them explore” Kivumbi added.

She explains that because all children grow at different rates they have grouped the children in different groups according to annual themes.

“This year our theme is ‘birds’, so different groups have different bird names” she says excitedly. The school uses small group instruction that allows children to choose their own developmentally appropriate activities and learn at their own pace.

“We believe that each child has different strengths and needs. We implement individual programme plans to assist children with their personal objectives and encourage the success in their areas of strength” she continues.

She goes on to say that although many parents have left teaching to teachers their contribution is crucial and so they allow them to point out areas they wish for their children to be challenged in based on their knowledge of the child.

The school has Kinyarwanda, French and English speaking teachers accommodating the possibility of any child to enroll.
This system might be new in our country but it definitely gives parents educational choices for their children.