Apr 28, 2017

Update from Kigali May 2017

Pupil demonstrating English sentences he's learned
Pupil demonstrating English sentences he's learned

Education East Africa Quarterly Report

UPDATE FROM KIGALI

1st May 2017

Firstly, an apology for the awful typo in my last report. I was horrified, but when I noticed it the report had already ‘gone live’. I don’t want to draw attention to it if you hadn’t noticed, but it was the use of ‘affect’ instead of ‘effect’. Mortifying, but I have lived to see the days and weeks since.

The schools recently opened again after the mid-term holidays.

The teachers are really relishing using our books and materials. They are also gaining confidence in their own use of English. With the activities set out in the books, the pupils often come to the front to use what they have learned. It has been wonderful to see pupils standing with, for instance, one of the wall charts and the task of putting the English they know to use with the items shown on the wall chart. One boy stood there, started to say his sentence, realised he was going astray, stopped – and in those seconds you could almost see him working out the patterns in his head – and then came out with the completely correct sentence structure. That was proof of utter understanding and ability to use the language. The teachers are hugely encouraged by their pupils, and success breeds success. Both teachers and pupils are on the upward spiral of learning and speaking English.

We are still focusing on teachers teaching the very first year, P1, but we observe and help all teachers teaching English in lower primary (P1 to P3) and in upper primary too (P4 to P6). It is more difficult to help the teachers who are not experiencing using our books and materials. The books provided by the government do not give detailed guidance, and what guidance that is given is in English, which is the very language the teachers are struggling with! We help those teachers more with teaching methods and some demonstration lessons.

In our sessions when all the teachers come together, the teachers have told us that they want to speak English, and so we now cover an item of grammar or a sentence structure, and then encourage the teachers to use that in conversation. There is progress. Within this we can touch on techniques of how and when to correct pupils, the use and meaning of tenses, contrasting tenses, and we can highlight pitfalls to be avoided.

The head teacher of Gasabo primary school was transferred recently to another school within the same district. He has sent an email requesting that we include his new school in our work! We will see what we can do.

Alongside our work in the schools, we are continuing to see officials so that our work is known.

We now have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mayor of Gasabo that our English programme should cover all of his district when funds permit. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Rwanda Education Board (REB) that the NOEC books are being used to help to deliver the new curriculum.

We have met the District Education Director for Gasabo District who has agreed that we can write examinations for P1 in both our project schools and other schools. This will also help to monitor and evidence the improvements in English from our project.

We have met the Deputy Chair of The Board of REB who has given very positive feedback on the NOEC books and has suggested we submit them to the Textbook Approval Committee, of which he is Chair. He has also told us that there is a policy proposal that English becomes the medium of instruction in secondary school, and not in P4 which is the present situation. He is interested in discussing this further with us.

We have met two Senators, one of whom has committed to visit the schools this term to see our work. We have met the Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, who is sharing our materials with her colleagues and will visit to see our work.

We have met the Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education who was very interested in our materials and our ideas. As a first step in continuing our discussion on the improvement of teaching English, he will visit our schools and talk to the teachers this term.

We have to date had two meetings with Dr. Papias, the Minister for Education, and later this month or in June we hope to have a meeting with him and his Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education.

So, we are busy and look forward to keeping busy.

All of this work is possible because of the donations we receive.

Your donations are invaluable, and I thank you all again and again for your generosity and support.

Many thanks indeed.

Katy Allen
Director

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

(L-R) Dilly, Director General of the REB and Katy
(L-R) Dilly, Director General of the REB and Katy

Links:

Jan 31, 2017

Update from Kigali February 2017

Pupils gathering to see Katy 'The White One'
Pupils gathering to see Katy 'The White One'

Education East Africa Quarterly Report

UPDATE FROM KIGALI

1st February 2017

The school holidays were long. The schools closed at the end of October and opened on Monday 23rd January. That first week of the new term was taken up with enrolling the new Primary 1 pupils and preparing the school. The new Primary 1 pupils are enrolling in their hundreds. We visited each school just to say ‘hello’ and to plan our teacher-training visits. As we approached each school masses of pupils ran up to see ‘the white one’ in great excitement. They do not see white people very often at all, and so to have one who comes and helps in some of their classes is of enormous interest!

So, our work in the schools only started again two days ago, on the 30th January. As this is the new school year, we can have a greater affect as we are starting at the beginning and can plan for the whole year. We want to improve classroom discipline; too many pupils put up their hands and shout out to be chosen, and this should now be done silently. The care and use of the pupils’ exercise books needs keen supervision, and also the teachers’ use of the blackboard needs to be improved. We aim, too, to help with the neat and orderly storage of materials. All of this will not be easy with over 50 children in a class, and staffrooms which do not have enough tables let alone cupboard or shelf space.

Our first day back in Gasabo primary school was more than a promising start. Claude has started well, and his new pupils are diligently putting up their hands and waiting patiently to be chosen to answer. They are learning the sentence pattern ‘This is a….’, and we observed Claude demonstrate and model this target language clearly, many times. The pupils then tried to say the sentence ‘This is a book’ after Claude had put books on each desk so each pupil had a book to touch. The result was excellent, and after a while all pupils were confidently answering ‘What is this?’, with ‘This is a book’. We had a long session with Claude and the head teacher and they are now happy for our scheme of work to be used this year. This is wonderful, as by following our materials from beginning to end the pupils will learn the sentence patterns, and with the teachers using the teaching methods set out in the books the pupils will be able to demonstrate their understanding and will learn with fun.

Damian, who used to work with the Rwanda Education Board, joined us in the middle of November. He was meeting many people whilst I was in the UK. On my return to Kigali, we have met many more people together. We are meeting as many key, influential people as possible, so that our cause to try to bring about improvements to the English curriculum and the teaching of English in the lower primary classes has much support. There is a resistance to change, and especially as the new curriculum was only introduced last year.

In the coming weeks we need to work closely with the teachers and to continue to gather evidence that our teaching materials are beneficial and are enabling the teachers to improve their own English while improving the pupils’ learning of English at the same time.

We have a busy time ahead, but I am excited that I am back working with the teachers again, and that they are so keen to improve and to help their pupils.

Your donations keep this valuable work going, and I thank you all for your generosity and support.

Many thanks indeed.

Katy Allen
Director
Katy@EducationEastAfrica.org

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

'What is this?' & pupils reply, 'This is a book.'
'What is this?' & pupils reply, 'This is a book.'

Links:

Nov 7, 2016

Update November 2016

Education East Africa Quarterly Report

UPDATE FROM KIGALI

5th November 2016

What an amazing three months!

I have been working with Ivan, who comes to the schools with me and translates, and attends meetings with me. Ivan read the news on Rwanda television for many years, and so is recognised instantly by many people. We listen to the radio on our long drive to the project schools and Ivan’s worldwide political knowledge is extensive. As a result we have some very interesting conversations. The seasons have changed, and our drive has gone from being very dusty to very muddy and then back to dusty again.

We have spent one day a week in each of our four schools. The teaching year ended on Friday 14th October and the last few weeks of term were spent with examinations and then cleaning the schools. The schools closed on 4th November. They will open again for the new school year in mid to late January. The exact date will be announced later this month.

During our time at each school we observe several English lessons given by teachers of P1 (pupils who are on average 7 year olds) to those of P3. Each school has a ‘double shift’ system. The morning shift is from 7.20 to 11.40, and the afternoon session is from 12.40 to 5pm. Each week the pupils change shift, so those from the morning shift one week will be in the afternoon shift the next week. There are between two and three teachers of P1 English, who have one or two classes to teach in the morning and then one or two classes in the afternoon. Each class has 7 periods of English per week. Whilst observing we take extensive notes, particularly noting any difficulties with pronunciation and sentence structure. At each school we are given between one and one and a half hours to sit with all teachers of English. It is in these sessions that we give our feedback on the lessons observed. After a few weeks the teachers were able to start to advise each other on how a certain language item might have been better taught, once Ivan and I pointed out some shortcomings. The teachers have gained enormously from these sessions. One day, Liberee gave a very well structured lesson to her P1 pupils, and I was full of praise. In the teachers’ session she asked, “Where’s the criticism of my lesson?”. I said there wasn’t any, “Oh, getting criticism is the way I improve!”. We also use the teachers’ sessions to work through the NOEC books. This not only gives the teachers exposure to the correct sentence patterns but guides them in the methods to use the teach their pupils.

In the last three months I have seen a transformation in how the teachers are teaching, particularly the teachers of P1, who are our main focus. When we started our work they were using Kinyarwanda in the classroom most of the time, and translating nearly everything. They were teaching by rote with very little meaning. Now, the teachers have begun to understand the stages of a lesson, and are demonstrating new language items so that their pupils see the meaning. Then the teachers test the pupils’ understanding before they continue to teach the pupils to say the new language and then use it. This is bringing excellent results. There is now very little Kinyarwanda used in the lessons, as there is no need to use it.

In the last teaching week, we asked a firm of consultants, Three Stones, to evaluate our work. They were in each school for a day and conducted interviews and observed lessons. Their report is very helpful, highlighting that the teachers enjoy our project and are learning a lot and want more from it. All the teachers have expressed praise for the NOEC books and have stated that they will use them a lot next year as they can see how the pupils really learn when the teachers follow the lessons in the books.

Two officials from the Rwanda Education Board came to visit our work in Gikomero primary school. They observed a lesson and then talked to the teachers for nearly an hour. They were impressed by the teachers’ enthusiasm for our work and for the NOEC books.  At the request of those officials I wrote a report on my views of changes needed to improve the teaching of English in P1 to P3, before all subjects are taught through the medium of English in P4.

At the end of October, I saw the Hon. Minister for Education. I had met him for the first time in August last year. He was very interested to hear of the successes of our work in such a short time. I left him with the evaluation of our work by Three Stones, and my report on the changes needed. He promised to read them, and gave me his full support for our project.

Then just before the schools closed, one of the top officials of the Rwanda Education Board told me that he had resigned from his job and wanted to come to work on our project. This not only brings huge kudos for us, but his knowledge of the system and all those working in it will be invaluable. How this develops will be in our next report, but in my last report I stated, “the key to the success of our project will be how well we can involve government officials, and to gain their commitment to take on our work if they see the benefits of it.” I do not think I could have predicted that one of those key officials would come to join us!

We are still a new project in Rwanda, but our experience of over 20 years in Tanzania has made us stand out, and given us much credibility. The readiness with which the teachers have accepted our work and learned from it has now cemented our project as a very serious part of the development work in the country.

Again, I cannot emphasise enough how your donations are what makes our work happen. Without your support our work could not continue. I am grateful beyond words for all of your support.

I wish all of you a very happy festive season, and a very happy and fulfilling new year.

With huge thanks,

Katy Allen
Director
Katy@EducationEastAfrica.org

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

Katy with the Hon. Minister of Education
Katy with the Hon. Minister of Education

Links:

 
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