For years most schools in Rwanda have trained pupils and students in the Francophone school system whose curriculum is slow and provides little or no support in preparing them for the job market jungle.
Generally, most children at elementary level are taught in their local language-Kinyarwanda, then, as they proceed to higher classes, they are trained in majority French except for a few and very expensive English schools that the average Rwandan cannot afford.
As a result of this, the Francophone system of education has perpetually produced ‘raw students’ after A-level, who still find difficulty expressing themselves verbally or grammatically.
Added on to the language problem, practical lessons and examinations are completely absent in all the country’s primary and secondary schools.
This in itself has knitted and created a teacher-centered system – where students are not directly involved because teachers read and think for them.
By relying on their teachers, students have killed their creativity and adapted to the weak habit of cramming which eventually disintegrates when practicals are introduced at university level.
To curb these educational problems, in September 2008, Rwanda’s cabinet passed a proposal favouring the change of the country’s official language from French to English effective January 2009.
In step with this, Language Learning Centres have been planted around the country. 40 centres have been established, 60 more are to be in place by the end of this year and by 2010, a network of centres will be established within the East African region.
According to Fred Bahati, the Director of the East African Language Learning Centres, the centres teach languages and provide consultancy services on school curriculums.
The centres are a bridge that will ease communication and curriculum problems in the East African community (EAC).
“There is a need to harmonise the school curriculum in Rwanda to fit in with the other EAC member states. Francophone teachers too need to undergo intense training in the English language so as to maintain their teaching professions,” Bahati said.
By citing teaching challenges that Rwanda’s school going children face and introducing a learner-centered curriculum that is practical, the country’s education standard will improve.
Narcisse Musabeyezu, the Inspector of Schools in Rwanda emphasised the importance of using qualified and ethical teachers who will improve the education system in Rwanda.
“Joining the East African Community has made learning English vital. There is need for genuine qualified teachers who are ready to teach and not exploit the public’s need for the English language,” Musabeyezu said.
In line with this, the language centres employ qualified and professional teachers who go through an assessment period to produce visible results in the learners.
Qualified teachers from Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia teach English. French is taught by Rwandan and DR Congo teachers while Swahili is mainly taught by Tanzanians.
As a way of being practical and focusing on learner-centred teaching methods, equipments like computers programmed with modern software like the Enc’tre programme’ that does not require the internet are used.
Also at the different levels of teaching, television sets, DVD’s, projectors and radios are used hand in hand with text books.
Joseph Rugigana is a primary school English teacher who finds this method of teaching convenient and easy to apply.
“We make learning easy by emphasising student participation. Through actively listening and watching on the TV’s and radios, students easily understand text book notes and exercises we give,” Rugigana said.
As a result of these trainings, Rugigana testifies that within a month, pupils are able to speak a new language with correct word pronunciations and accents as well as construct correctly spelled words and sentences.
By blending practicals with theories, the language centres will rescue Rwanda’s school curriculum by improving communication.
Most importantly, the curriculum should include practical lessons alongside theories. Language, Science and Fine Art laboratories should be built in all Rwandan schools as a practical way of improving the curriculum and creativity of all learners.
As Rwanda integrates into the regional block, forming a uniform educational system is necessary. This will create a balance in the school curriculums hence achieving a higher educational standard.
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are using the Anglophone system that is learner-centred. This system focuses on producing schools with a higher standard of education as compared to Rwanda and Burundi’s francophone system.
This simply throws light on the fact that there is a huge loop hole that needs to be filled, in the latter’s school system and curriculum as compared to the formers’.