Oct 11, 2018

Update from Kigali October 2018

Example: P2 Writing After Input
Example: P2 Writing After Input

Education East Africa Quarterly Report

UPDATE FROM KIGALI
October 2018  

The final term of this school year started on 21st August, and with only a two-week holiday the teachers are visibly tired. The school year ends on 23rd November, and so the teachers have to grin and bear it and keep going!

Our main focus this term has been on the handwriting of the pupils. Their handwriting in Kinyarwanda is of a very low standard. The pupils do not have proper exercise books which guide them to the size of the letters. They are taught capital and small letters together, and so they use capital letters without regard to any rules! The pupils do not leave spaces between words, and they are not encouraged to read what they have written. So, our work has been cut out for us.

We are working with P2 pupils, who are now ready to write in English. I have written a special scheme of work for the teachers, and they use one or two periods a week to concentrate on handwriting. In a short time, there are great results, and the pupils now pay attention to the use of capital letters, and all have to read what they have written.

This work has been so much appreciated by Claude at Gasabo primary school, that he suggested that we run a hand-writing seminar for all teachers in Lower Primary. Many of the teachers do not form their letters correctly, and also use capital letters in the middle of words! The seminar is due to take place on Saturday 13th October. It’s going to be very interactive, with teachers encouraged to draw patterns that young children draw as a way of developing ‘fine motor-skills’ before they can start to write. The teachers will trace round all the small letters to make sure they can form them properly, and we’ll look at how to teach writing by ‘families’ of letters, such as all those that are formed with an anti-clockwise movement etc. We hope that this will be timely, so that the teachers can adopt these practices in the next school year.

In June, the Minister for Education asked me to produce a report analysing the subjects taught in primary school, and to give him a rationale for changing the curriculum. This was quite a task. The first stage was to get the curriculum documents for maths and Kinyarwanda translated into English, as English is the only subject taught in English and for which the curriculum document is written in English for the lower primary (P1 to P3) classes.

For my analysis of the maths and Kinyarwanda curriculum, I called upon Barbara Kerr for help. Barb worked in Tanzania with me from 2012 to 2015, and her expertise in primary school teaching, curriculum design, and teaching methodology is second to none. Luckily, Barb had some time before starting a new job in Indonesia, and so was able to look at the curriculum documents. It was very refreshing to work with Barb again!

The report covers maths, Kinyarwanda and English, as those are the key subjects in lower primary, and runs to 70 pages of analysis and comment. The report was delivered on 24th September and I’m now waiting for an appointment to see the Minister for Education again to discuss it.

The bad news is that our car here in Rwanda is falling apart. A lot is demanded of it – at least two hours’ driving every day to get to and from the project schools, on some very rough roads. Mechanics have advised that we sell it rather than incur substantial repair costs. Second-hand cars here have an extraordinary value, and we hope to sell this Toyota Rav 4 for the equivalent of about £5,000, but will have to put about £7,500 to buying a new one. The car has given us just over three years of service, and so perhaps we can’t complain.

The end of the school year we hope will see some good test results in English. P2 pupils will be given a written test to see how they get on. The P1 pupils will remain with oral testing.

The pupils will have a long holiday of about eight weeks before the new school year in January 2019, and I just hope that they don’t forget all the English they have learned.

Thank you again to everyone who helps our work with donations. Those donations are what keep our work going, and it is such a shame that those who give so generously don’t get to see the children smiling, waving and running after the car as we arrive at their schools. They and their teachers love being on our English programme, and are so proud of their progress.

Very many thanks indeed.

Katy Allen-Mtui - Director   
Education is the Passport to a Self-Sustaining Life
www.EducationEastAfrica.org

Example: P3 English Writing
Example: P3 English Writing

Links:

Jul 16, 2018

Update from Kigali July 2018

Katy Allen-Mtui and the Hon. Minister for Ed.
Katy Allen-Mtui and the Hon. Minister for Ed.

Education East Africa Quarterly Report

UPDATE FROM KIGALI
July 2018 

The second term does not end until the 3rd August which makes it a very long and tiring term for both pupils and teachers. The end of term examinations will be in the last week, and some revision will take place before then, and so the teaching weeks are coming to an end.

We have two new teachers at Kibara primary school for teaching English to Primary 1 and Primary 2. This was difficult at first as the teachers had to assess their pupils’ knowledge and ability and that took time. However, the teachers adapted very quickly to using the NOEC books, and now their lessons are some of the best.

Our New Original English Course (NOEC) books are the reason for the success of our work. The teachers appreciate having just one textbook. With the instructions and explanations in Kinyarwanda the teachers know what to do and how to do it, and, with the English which is to be taught being clearly set out, they are not making mistakes. The pupils are benefiting enormously from correct English being taught, and with the good teaching methods the pupils are literally seeing the meaning of the sentence patterns, and are then using them correctly.

The teachers become ever more enthusiastic about the books as their pupils progress, and the Primary 2 teachers are so amazed by what their pupils can now understand and say in English that they cannot wait to see how they are in Primary 3 and Primary 4!

Some English reading books were donated to us by a primary school in England, and the pupils have relished reading these. The language in the books is repetitive and so the pupils can manage to read and understand. These books have given more motivation and satisfaction. However, with over fifty pupils in a class, the teacher can only give the books to a few at a time, and then finding time to hear them read or check their understanding is difficult.

Our work is becoming more widely known and regarded. In the middle of June, I managed, at last, to see the new Minister for Education. He gave me a full hour of his time, and it was a most lively and open discussion. The Honourable Minister would like our work to expand and he is now working to help make that possible. The new school year starts in January, and he is aware of the financial implications of scaling-up our programme. This could be a most exciting development, possibly taking our NOEC books to two new districts with over 100 primary schools.

I look forward very much to seeing how the plans develop, and I am already writing a full proposal with costings. Alongside that I am writing about the role of Kinyarwanda in the pupils’ primary schooling. At the moment the pupils start to learn English in Primary 1, and their English studies have the same number of periods as their Kinyarwanda studies. I am of the opinion that the pupils need their literacy skills and initial thinking skills developed in their mother tongue without interference from a foreign language. Others are also of this opinion, but it will be an uphill struggle to change the status quo. However, it seems a battle well worth fighting, as the pupils’ writing and reading in Kinyarwanda is not of a high standard, and that in itself affects their ability to develop those skills in English.

I remain busy, and also optimistic that our work will develop to make widespread change to Rwanda’s primary school pupils.

I thank everyone who has supported our work, and who is interested in what we do. Your donations are what enable us to carry on, and your generosity is wonderful. Thank you so much for your help.

Happy summer days.

Katy Allen-Mtui - Director   
July 2018

Education is the Passport to a Self-Sustaining Life
www.EducationEastAfrica.org

Links:

Apr 18, 2018

Update from Kigali May 2018

Teachers' Workshop - Saturday 24th, March 2018
Teachers' Workshop - Saturday 24th, March 2018

Education East Africa Quarterly Report

UPDATE FROM KIGALI
May 2018 

Here we are with the first term of the school year over, the two-week holiday just finished and the second term underway.

The first term was interesting. At most of the schools where we work, the teachers who had taught English to Primary 1 last year followed their pupils into Primary 2. This has worked well as the teachers know exactly what the pupils learned last year. Some of last year’s Primary 1 English teachers stayed teaching in Primary 1 which also is working well as those teachers know the materials and hence have made a very good start with their pupils’ foundation in English. However, we also have new teachers. This has been a challenge. The new teachers in Primary 1 soon found their feet, but the new teachers of Primary 2 had a very difficult task of not knowing the material used last year, and yet having to assess their pupils’ knowledge and understanding. Another problem was the very long holiday the pupils had had since the end of the last school year at the beginning of November and the start of this school year on 22nd January. That meant that the pupils had not spoken English for nearly three months, and some had forgotten a lot!

Our materials are contained in the New Original English Course (NOEC) books. This is a course of five sets of books covering the six years of primary education. Each set of books has a Teacher’s Guide and a Pupil’s Book. The Teacher’s Guide is comprehensive with very full explanations and instructions for the teachers in their mother tongue of Kinyarwanda, and the English to deliver in each lesson, as well as answers to all exercises in the Pupil’s Books. As the teaching methods are within the body of the Teacher’s Guide and given in Kinyarwanda, the teachers can use the books effectively.  We are there to provide guidance, and to assist with other matters such as classroom layout, classroom management, and encouragement to the teachers.

After a bit of a slow start with some of the Primary 2 English classes, lessons were soon underway with good teaching methods and the pupils learning and progressing. It was wonderful to see how the teachers who had used our materials last year helped the new teachers, and showed that their command and understanding of the teaching methods is now embedded.

Primary 2 have now started to read and write in English. Reading and writing skills in a second language are learned differently from those in the first language. However, those new language skills depend on a certain level of competence in the first language. The standard of writing in Kinyarwanda across all the schools is at a very low level. Some pupils form their letters incorrectly, for nearly all pupils their letters are of different sizes, they don’t write on the line, and they have no regard for rules of when to use large and small letters, and most worrying of all, their words have no spaces and so all letters continue with no spaces. So, to help the pupils to write English words is very difficult. It is not the English teacher’s job to teach the pupils how to write, but this is what we are having to guide our teachers to do. We have to find time to help the pupils to write neatly and properly. This is affecting the progress using the NOEC materials, but we hope that the pupils will benefit.

The teachers who have been using the NOEC materials for more than a year now are excelling in their teaching methods. They now understand the stages of a lesson, and how to keep the lesson flowing but with different and varied activities. I have observed lessons with more than fifty pupils and more than 90% of the pupils being ‘on task’ throughout the forty minute lesson. This is no mean feat, and it comes from the teacher’s understanding of how children learn and how to engage them with their materials.

The new teachers are doing very well, but they specifically asked if they could have a workshop on the use of the NOEC materials. The only time we had was on a Saturday, but the teachers were more than happy with that. We held the workshop on Saturday 24th March and seventeen of our teachers attended. We concentrated on how to introduce a new item of language, with the correct demonstration stage, how to convey the pronunciation, how to use stress, and the correct use of choral drilling and then work with groups and individuals. We also worked hard on the teaching of reading and writing. The teachers enjoyed it, and from their evaluation forms they felt they had gained knowledge and confidence.

The end of year examinations which the Primary 1 pupils sat in November 2017 had very good results. We set the same examination for some Primary 4 pupils in February 2018. The Primary 1 examinations had been oral, and the test we set for Primary 4 was written, but the questions were the same. In all our Primary 1 classes the average score was more than 68%. In the P4 classes, with very generous marking the top mark was 27% and the average score was 9%. This helps to prove our argument that the teaching and learning of English in primary schools using the standard textbooks is not working.

The other side of our work away from the classrooms, is advocating for change.

We have been trying to see the new Minister for Education but without success. He has been extremely busy and despite being in frequent touch with his private secretary we are still waiting for an appointment. Meanwhile, there has been a new Director General appointed at the Rwanda Education Board, and changes in five other key positions there. This is obviously a time of change, and it is crucial that our voice is heard.

I was asked by the Rwanda Broadcasting Authority to be on The Big Q which is a weekly interview programme covering topical issues on Rwanda Television.  I was interviewed about our work in primary education and the teaching and learning of English. A video of the twenty-five minute programme can be found on the following link:  https://vimeo.com/259470168.  The programme was broadcast three times!

I have great hopes that our views and experience will be listened to, and will help to improve the primary education in Rwanda. This is ambitious, but we are doing what no-one else is doing; working in the classrooms with years of experience in East African primary schools and having a great impact which is evidenced beyond doubt by the pupils understanding and using English.

To everyone who is reading this, I thank you so much for your interest in our work, and for your generous donations that enable us to keep going, and for sharing my desire to make life better for children through education.

Summer is on its way and let’s hope everything blooms.

Katy Allen - Director
13th April 2018

Education is the Passport to a Self-Sustaining Life
https://www.educationeastafrica.org  

Katy's interview on The Big Q
Katy's interview on The Big Q

Links:

 
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