My time volunteering
I volunteered twice. From 2014 - 2016 & 2017 - 2019. My first placement was in a Teacher Training College in Nyagatare, Rwanda as a Literacy & Numeracy Advisor. The second placement was still in Nyagatare, which is in the Eastern part of Rwanda, as a District Teaching Advisor. Both roles entailed working with key education stakeholders which included, but not limited to, District Education Officers, Sector Education Officers, head teachers, School based mentors (SBMs), School Subject Leaders (SSLs) and, teachers of Mathematics and English. I worked in collaboration with 5 National volunteers who were assigned 2 - 3 sectors each. Nyagatare District had 12 Sectors. My work entailed building the capacity of the national volunteers, who cascaded skills to the teachers of Mathematics and English. Working with the National Volunteers was key due to the language barrier which hindered direct engagement with teachers. Teachers methodology and communication needed to be enhanced. I engaged, enriched, and empowered the National Volunteers to help capacity build the teachers.
The impact of my placement
Picture this, teachers were shifting from Francophone to Anglophone, this translated to teachers being taught a whole new language to use as a mode of communication in teaching. It was a gradual process that needed teachers to be supported. The BLF ( Building Learning Foundations) project's approach entailed use of modules for both mathematics and English. The English module mainly was to enrich the teacher's language, while the mathematics one was to help in methodology, and for this reason it was in Kinyarwanda. The greatest impact was empowering the National Volunteers since this meant that even after my placement was over, they could still carry on mentoring teachers in different areas in regard to pedagogy. To the project, it was a big plus for the teachers who were able to implement different strategies from the tool kits into classroom practice. Teachers were also able to hold communities of practice (CoPs) and share good practices as well as tackle challenges they encountered as they tried to implement the strategies in the tool kits. " I have acquired a lot from my colleagues during CoP meetings. I always had problems implementing group activities in my class since it was big. Now I am able to manage my class through group work." Said a teacher from one of the schools in Nyagatare. Holding CoPs was a concept that was new to majority of teachers. Implementation of inter school visits by headteachers which was referred to as Professional Learning Committees ( PLCs) which facilitated bench marking visits where sharing of good practice among the head teachers was pertinent. The outcomes included schools being able to create a vision and mission as well as implement it. The PLCs were self-motivated with little help from the project and this was a great impact and translated to sustainability. Infusion of inclusive education was key and this was realized when teachers were able to profile the students into sub-groups with each being accorded support. "I used to just teach my student without caring if there were some who needed special attention. Now I am able to handle each student based on their capability." Said a teacher from one of the schools in Nyagatare District.
My unforgettable moments
I had many beautiful moments in Rwanda from meeting new friends from all over the world to learning basic Kinyarwanda, and the Rwandan culture which is greatly valued, but my best moments were ones spent with my volunteer friends making learning resources using no cost materials over weekends to distribute to schools. I was so happy when I went back in 2019 and found some of the materials we made and distributed still hanging on the classroom walls in some schools! Another time I was observing a lesson in a P2 class when the teacher decided to use a live goat as a resource when teaching domestic animals!
The impact my placement has had on me
I learnt to survive in adverse conditions and manage myself without being supervised. I acquired a lot of skills and knowledge which enabled me to get a job in development working with high school teachers of English & mathematics through teacher coaches, and working with the youth as well as the community. VSO Kenya also engages me as a trainer sometimes. I am also collaborating with a group of like-minded partners to create a consultancy dealing with key issues in education whose aim is to engage, enrich,enhance and empower teachers and other education stakeholder and organizations.