Feed A Hungry Mind

by Education East Africa
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Feed A Hungry Mind
Our NOEC books
Our NOEC books

 

Warmest Greetings,

I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits. 

Like many places in our world, most schools in Rwanda have been closed since spring. Upper Primary (Primary 4 to Primary 6) returned to their classes Monday 2nd November, but for Lower Primary (P1 to P3) the wait continues. They are scheduled to return to the classroom in January. 

Damian and Ivan will be supporting the teachers of P4 in our project schools, as they face the hard task of helping their pupils, after such a long break, remember the English they had learned. 

Our popular radio programmes, ‘English with Teacher Katy’, aired over the summer. Five children of his neighbours congregated at Ivan’s house to listen to the programmes on his radio, and Ivan carried on after each programme to teach them English using our NOEC (New Original English Course) books. There were two children who are in P2, two in P3 and one who is in P4 at various schools. Ivan noted they had little understanding of the meaning of what they had been taught, but that improved dramatically with the radio programmes and use of the NOEC books. The parents thanked Ivan as they too noticed the improvement. 

We are now going to run the radio programmes for P2 and P3 again. This time they will be aired on Radio Rwanda. 

Damian and Ivan have met several education officials at the Rwanda Education Board, and there is a strong indication that there might be curriculum reform, with an awareness that, “something is not right with English language delivery”.

However, this must now be set against the nationwide announcement, in late July, that English will be the medium of instruction from P1 onwards. Up until now, English has been taught as a foreign language from P1 to P3, and all other subjects taught in the mother tongue of Kinyarwanda. From P4 English was the medium of instruction. This was not working well, as pupils were not learning enough English in P1 to P3 to be able to cope with all their lessons in English from P4. On top of that, there were still literacy problems in the mother tongue and a lack of development of thinking skills.  Most primary school teachers have insufficient English, and switching to English as the medium of instruction in P4 was impeding their pupils’ learning and education.

This extraordinary decision to expect teachers and pupils to use English for all lessons from P1 seems is ill-informed. Inevitably, there will be use of the mother tongue, but this will be covert, and pupils will most likely learn neither English nor mastery of their mother tongue.

However, in this unhappy scenario our NOEC books will have an even greater role to play.

The Chair of our trustees in Rwanda, Emmy Nyirigira, met the Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education, Mr Gaspard Twagirayezu. They have worked together for many years on the President’s Social Commission. The Minister of State agreed to meet Damian and Ivan, and that meeting is anticipated in the next week or so. It seems that he, along with other education officials, is more open than ever for ideas on how to improve the teaching of English.

On top of all that, on 2nd November a public notice came from the Prime Minister’s office that the Director General, Deputy Director General, and Head of Teacher Development at the Rwanda Education Board had all been suspended from duties “for their failure to properly manage and coordinate the ongoing teacher recruitment process”. It transpires that newly qualified teachers have waited months and are still not placed in schools —- and yet there are many vacancies to be filled. A newly centralized system is not working, and schools have reopened without sufficient staff.

It does seem that a crisis looms. Again, this could be a very good opportunity for our NOEC books. The NOEC books are not only tried and tested over the years, but they fit the present context. They enable the teachers to learn or improve their English on-the-job, as they teach their pupils. The English to use and teach to the pupils is specifically written so that good English is heard and learned by the pupils. The methodology to adopt is given to the teachers at every stage (written in their mother tongue of Kinyarwanda). The pupils enjoy the pictures and stories which are all set in an East African context and are fun and memorable, at times following the same characters through several escapades.

There are five books of the NOEC, and if those were used in the primary teacher-training then new teachers would have a grasp of English sentence patterns and structures to a good intermediate level, and would have learned good teaching techniques which they could transfer to other subjects.

Learn more about our NOEC books by following this link:  https://www.educationrwanda.org/books/

At this critical time, it is frustrating being stuck in England and not being able to be in the thick of it, as I have been for over twenty-six years. 

I’ll end on a very upbeat, warming and happy note. Out of the blue I received an email from Hans Moshi, who has given me permission to use his name and quote his words. It turns out that he was taught English by our ‘gap year’ volunteers when he was at Mshiri primary school in Tanzania from 2001 to 2008. He is now studying in America, preparing for graduate school. He wrote, I was reflecting on my life lately and looking at things that have carried me to this point in my life and that is where you came in.  I remembered your work with the TRC (Teacher Resource Centre) trying to improve the teaching situation for teachers. It didnt make sense back then but in hindsight I am in awe over the things you were doing. I was there when the TRC building was completed and students could use computers. I remember us having computer classes once a week. There was always not enough time when we were there……

“I am really grateful for the work you did. I was inspired by all the volunteer guests we received each year. That exposure has been paramount to my success. I never thought about it until very late in my college career, when I was looking for my inspiration in life. I want to be able to do what you are doing someday. I just wanted to reach out to tell you even if it seems like you do not get back as much as you put in, someone somewhere out here was extremely inspired by your work. You have inspired me to do the same by helping the less fortunate and as I am approaching the end of my education career I am thinking of ways I can help and give back too, thanks to you.

“Having lived in the US for 5 years I can imagine what its like uprooting ones life and moving to a whole different country with a different culture. I salute the courage, tenacity and drive to help and forever will be grateful for the inspiration. I promise to carry the light forward.

This in itself is thanks enough for 26 years’ work. If Hans put it down in words, then there must be others who feel the same. Even if it is only Hans, then it has been worth the effort, and it is still worth fighting on.

Hans’s letter is as much for you as it is for me. None of this would be possible without donations to enable our work to happen. Thank you so much for your continuing support.

With very best wishes,

Katy 

Hans
Hans
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Making the programmes
Making the programmes

No sooner had I sent my last report than the Rwandan government announced the immediate closure of schools on 16thMarch.

Then a few weeks later came the decision that the schools would not reopen until September.

This is actually part of the government’s plan to change the school year from a calendar year to a September/July school year, and so the corona virus has provided the way to make the change.

That means that in September, Primary 1 will have two cohorts; those who started in January this year, and who will continue with Primary 1 again in September, and those who were expecting to start school in January 2021 but who will now start in September 2020.

All other pupils will start again in September 2020 in the grade they were in in January 2020.

We were very concerned about our pupils who in January 2020 were in Primary 2, Primary 3 and Primary 4. Whilst they will continue in those grades in September, they will have forgotten so much of what they knew. They come from families where no English is spoken in the home and there is very little, or no, English heard around them in their villages. 

We then had the idea that the only feasible way to help the pupils, and indeed the teachers too, was to use the radio. We hoped that most families have a radio and can afford the batteries to make it work!  We were reassured by the teachers in the schools that this would be the case. 

Damian and Ivan negotiated with Radio One, Rwanda, for a prime time slot at 11am every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Radio One is a nationwide, popular music station, and so this is an interesting diversion for them, and one they were very excited to take on.

We decided to call our radio programmes ‘English With Teacher Katy’. 

So, I then set about scripting the sixteen programmes which would run for 8 weeks. First, I decided to have one programme for Primary 2 and Primary 3 combined, and a separate programme for Primary 4. For each programme we were given a 15-minute slot which is, we think, enough for children to concentrate. 

The content is based on our NOEC books. (More about our NOEC books here: https://www.educationeastafrica.org/books/). But the success of teaching English as a foreign language from the NOEC relies heavily on the pupils seeing things, and seeing things being done, in order for them to understand the meaning. I always say that they have to see the meaning

So, my task for the radio was to ensure that the pupils could ‘hear’ the meaning, and I had to think of objects that make clear, identifiable sounds. For instance, I have used a box, a tin, a ball, a book, and a piece of paper. These are items whose sound when touched, bounced or fanned, as the case may be, convey what they are. 

I then needed another person, another voice, to take the part of the pupil. I called on my Tanzanian friend Joe. I asked him to come with a pair of proper shoes and not trainers. He had no idea what I really meant and so came with a full suit and tie, and his proper shoes! 

My sitting room has a wooden floor, and we rolled up the rug, put a chair in the middle and that was Joe’s base. With his shoes he could then be clearly heard moving in response to commands, ‘Come here’, or ‘Go the door’ etc.  Needless to say, Joe never wore his suit, and performed throughout in his track suit with his smart leather shoes underneath! Joe is not a well-known name in Rwanda, but Joseph is. So, in all the scripts he was Joseph.

The script for each programme was about 5 pages. Joe’s parts were in bold type and mine in non-bold type. I sat at the table, with the iPad ready to record on Apple Voice Recorder. We had the various props arranged on the table in the order in which we needed to use them. My script was flat on the table in front of me. I realized that Joe would be moving around with his script, and so we stuck each page on a piece of cardboard so that not only would it stay firm but also wouldn’t make a noise as he went from page to page. There were times when it was easier for me to deal with the props whilst Joe read the script. At other times Joe had to manipulate the props with the script, such as, “I’m opening the window”, “I’m brushing my teeth” or “I’m playing football”.

I never worked out how to edit anything we’d recorded. I could pause during recording and start up again, but if we made a mistake we’d just have to start all over again. Apple’s Voice Recorder shows you the minutes and seconds as you record. That made the end of every script very stressful, as I’d have to judge whether we’d finish the script in time or whether I’d need to cut out a bit. I’d have to assess that we would have time at the end for a quick summary of what we’d done and to say ‘goodbye’.

When we recorded our second programme, Joe, seeing the same objects on the table again, asked with some incredulity, “Oh, are we opening the box again?”. Little could he have known just how often he would open the box, shut the box, put the box on the table, put the box on the chair, put the bottles in the box, or put the tin on the box. After we’d recorded all the programmes he took the box out to the rubbish shed with a spring in his step!

The end of each recording was a noted achievement. We’d then paste the next script pages on top of the others on Joe’s cardboard pieces. There was a low point, when we’d recorded three programmes, opening each with, “Good afternoon” as our slot on the radio was first to have been 2pm, and then came the news that the better slot of 11am had been secured. 

This required us to record the first three programmes all over again. Lesson learned. After this experience, we began every recording with a cheery, “Hello”.

Whilst the programmes are broadcast nationally, I designed them for the pupils who are in our project schools. The aim overall is for the pupils to hear some English again and to revise what they had already learned. It is hoped that they speak English by following and talking with some of Joe’s part of the script. If they learn something new, then that is an added bonus. We anticipate, of course, that all other pupils who listen to the radio will benefit from the programmes.

The programmes also provide the added bonus for teachers to hear English with native pronunciation and intonation. It might also be the first time in a while that the teachers have been on the receiving end, and they will feel again what it’s like to learn by listening, and how much repetition is needed in a foreign language.

We have enjoyed good feedback. One of the Sector Education Officers, Dismas, told Damian, ‘Barakurikira rwose!’ – ‘The pupils are really, really following!’. Another Sector Education Officer, Fidel, has said that there should be more than two programmes a week.

Claude, one of our teachers at Gasabo primary school, got a telephone call from the mother of one of his pupils, telling him that Anita was so excited by being able to follow the first lesson she listened to, that she was going to all her friends telling them to listen! The head teacher of another of our project schools reported that pupils in his upper classes were listening to all the programmes because they  could follow them and were joining in.

Our new radio programmes, ‘English With Teacher Katy’, will be broadcast at least until the middle of August. We have posted a trio of our radio programmes on our website to share with you. This link will take you to our media page where you will easily spot our radio offerings:

https://www.educationrwanda.org/media/

Thank you to all of you for your continued support of our work and your interest in it.

These are still difficult times, and education around the world is being affected, but we have found a way to continue to help our pupils and teachers which is the best we can do in the circumstances.

All of your generous support is hugely appreciated.

With very best wishes

Katy

 

The flyer to advertise the programmes
The flyer to advertise the programmes
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Listen on our website
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P1 pupils enjoy testing the names of items learned
P1 pupils enjoy testing the names of items learned

From Kigali March 2020  

January saw the beginning of another school year. The pupils who started using our NOEC materials at the beginning of their Primary 1 class, are now in Primary 4.

There was sudden change last month when the President appointed new members of his cabinet, and the outcome is a new Minister for Education and the first female in the role, as well as a new Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education.

Before I turn to this year’s news, I should report on the end-of-year examinations which were set by the Rwanda Education Board, which I explained in my last report. The examinations for Primary 1 to Primary 3 were marked by the schools, and the results were collated and sent to the District office, which then collated the results of all its schools and sent them to the Rwanda Education Board. So, a set of marks serves little purpose for analysis or real assessment which is unfortunate, and another opportunity has been missed. In our schools, from the results which were available, the majority of pupils in all three year groups passed their English examinations. Some had very good results with many pupils gaining over 60% and even over 75%. However, there was no proper marking scheme, and the examination papers, as analysed in my report, were not adequate for any proper assessment, and so these results do not have much meaning. However, the teachers thought that the papers were quite difficult, and I think they were surprised how well their pupils did.

In Rwanda, Primary 4 is the stage at which English medium starts. All lessons are to be taught through the medium of English from Primary 4 onwards. In government primary schools, and especially rural ones, this is not feasible in practice; the teachers’ English is not developed enough to teach in English and the pupils’ English after three years of following the government curriculum and books is woefully inadequate.

With our first cohort of pupils in Primary 4, the challenge is on.

Teachers are afflicted by the absenteeism of their pupils. This is a big problem in schools, and many pupils have a very sporadic attendance, some missing whole weeks of school at a time. Teachers have large classes, and the task of supporting serial absentees is beyond them. Changing attitudes of parents (many of whom are in poverty and are themselves illiterate or poorly educated) is a slow process. A teacher can have only 75% of the class who attend regularly. This affects the monitoring and evaluation of our work, but nevertheless we continue with our assessments.

Our Primary 4 pupils are not fluent in English after only studying for three years for just over 5 hours a week for about 34 weeks each year. But they do now have a grasp of many different sentence structures and patterns, and are learning many more of them. This is the basis of the NOEC course. It introduces sentence patterns and structures which form the backbone of the English language. For instance, the structure, ‘the ….. of the ….’. The pupils start by learning, ‘That is the door of the classroom.’ Once they know the structure, then they are prepared for sentences in other contexts such as, ‘…the purpose of the experiment’, or ‘..the perimeter of the rectangle’, etc. With the many structures that the pupils in Primary 4 know, they are coping well in their other subjects. 

Teachers who teach Primary 4 and above are used to teaching in Kinyarwanda, or using a lot of Kinyarwanda in order for their pupils to understand and learn anything. We are getting feedback that the teachers notice a great difference with our Primary 4 classes. Their ability to write in English is far greater than the teachers normally see, and the pupils’ understanding and readiness to speak in English is also better than previous Primary 4 classes.

We have several new teachers this term, and a brand new school! Muhazi primary school has been built as part of the government’s plan to reduce class sizes. Muhazi is relieving pressure of pupil numbers from Kayanga and Gikomero primary schools. As those two schools are part of our programme it made sense to work with Muhazi school, on top of which the head teacher from Kayanga is now the head teacher of Muhazi and she has long supported our work. 

What has been most encouraging is how the new teachers are being trained in the use of the NOEC materials by the other teachers. This cooperation and support is how the programme is eventually planned to expand. New teachers in Primary 1 are not so difficult to train, as they just start using NOEC Book One and soon get to grips with the in-built methodology. We have two new teachers in Primary 4, and they have to learn what the pupils should already know, and what has been covered in the last three years. Their reactions to the use of the NOEC have been interesting. One of the teachers has taught English to Primary 4 for several years and so is new to the NOEC materials but not to teaching. He has struggled to leave behind his old ways of relentless choral drilling, and far too much teaching-talking-time, and no provision for challenging his pupils to think and to learn by participation. The other teacher is new to teaching, and, of course, new to the NOEC materials too. He has adopted the NOEC methods, and the use of the Teacher’s Book, with ease, and is seeing the benefit of following the book and thereby implementing much pupil participation. 

The material in the NOEC book for Primary 4 is not easy. It is far more detailed, and expects that the pupils’ cognitive ability will have increased with their age. The teachers are taking the lessons slowly so that the content is understood and learned. The stage of learning in other subjects and lack of the development of thinking skills in other subjects is becoming a hindrance in their English studies. A small example is the telling of time in English, which demands an understanding of the concept of ‘quarter’ and ‘half’ for ‘quarter past/half past’ etc. If that has not been fully grasped by pupils in their mathematics through their own mother-tongue, then that English lesson becomes all the more difficult. We accept that progress will be slow. However, the book for Primary 4 pupils has some of the lovely NOEC stories which are funny, memorable and wholly set in the African context. This is motivating the pupils in their learning, and they flip ahead in the book avidly to look at the pictures in future stories to see what lies ahead!

We were surprised by the appointment of a new Minister for Education and a new Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education. The new Minister for Education is someone who Damian knows, and we hope to meet her as soon as her schedule will allow. 

The new Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education is the man who was organizing my presentation to the ruling party’s Education Commission, which did not proceed. So, we know him well, and he is already familiar with my reports and analyses of the primary school curriculum and the textbooks. We look forward to seeing him again as soon as he is available to see us.

The Director of Cabinet has been made Minister in charge of Cabinet Affairs, and so I have written to her expressing my hope that the information she had from me about the primary education system will be relevant in her new role.

This will be a very interesting year, and with the new Ministers in place it is an opportunity for our advocacy to reach a new audience, and, we hope, for some much needed change. We are hopeful of getting the new Ministers to the field to see our work in action, to be able to compare what we are achieving in the teaching and learning of English with other classes that do not have the NOEC materials, and to get the new Ministers to engage with the teachers to hear their views.

We still need your support, and we are most grateful for all your generous donations. Thank you to every one of you who so kindly gives towards our work, and who knows how these young Rwandan children will benefit from learning English.

 

With huge thanks and all good wishes,

 

Katy Allen

Director

www.EducationEastAfrica.org  

Education is the Passport to a Self-Sustaining Life

Katy@EducationEastAfrica.org   

 

 

One of our new P4 teachers enjoying using the NOEC
One of our new P4 teachers enjoying using the NOEC
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Katy’s Writes from Rwanda: December 2019  

The school year has ended, and the teachers are enjoying a well-earned rest. The new school year starts on 6th January 2020. 

 

The good, long rest for the teachers is not so good for the pupils. Their last lessons were in the week of 14th October, and from then the last weeks of term were taken up with examinations and cleaning their schools. In the holidays the pupils have very little or no exposure to English. In the three months before they start lessons again in January they will have forgotten much of what they learned. It will take the teachers time to assess what has been retained and where to start again. Not only that, but with a new school year there will be new English teachers for many pupils. Those teachers will have to be guided in what was taught before, and how to bring the pupils back to the required level.

 

The end-of-year examinations were set by the Rwanda Education Board. Those examinations in lower primary (primary 1 to primary 3) were marked by the teachers. The primary 1 pupils did not do very well as they are used to oral examinations, and the Rwanda Education Board set written examinations. Our primary 2 and 3 pupils did well, as they had had practice in writing in English, and reading and understanding various sentence patterns and structures.

 

However, the examination papers were not the basis for any proper assessment. This is such an important issue, as the results of the examinations can be used by the government to influence policy and strategy. I wrote an analysis of the English papers for Primary 1, 2 and 3. I attach it to this report as it might be of interest. I sent my report to the director general of the Rwanda Education Board with an offer to provide any help or training.

 

The presentation to be made to the ruling party’s Education Commission has not happened, and seems unlikely to happen as the President’s Office is seeking feedback from the Ministry of Education, the Rwanda Education Board and education officials on my comments and my various reports. In view of the lapse of time since the meeting in the Strategy and Planning Unit of the President’s Office, I wrote a long letter to the Director of Cabinet. She is the one who suggested and approved my meeting with the Strategy and Planning Unit. Although she is incredibly busy, I hope that she will have read my letter. This was a bold step, setting out all my concerns for the primary education system, and setting out my views on the reasons for shortcomings with suggestions for their rectification. In my time working in Rwanda I have not come across anyone with my experience of being in government primary school classrooms for twenty-five years in East Africa. I have observed teachers and pupils, I have studied their textbooks, and I have experienced the conditions in which they work. I have worked with hundreds of teachers and together we have improved how they teach, and I have seen pupils start to enjoy their learning and be pleased with themselves for their progress. Change does not require tons of money, but rather it needs to be based on solid expertise, taking account of the local context and set in a sensible timeframe.

 

With that in mind, it is somewhat disheartening that the Minister for Education announced at the beginning of December that all of primary education will become English medium in a ‘determined period to be announced’. That means that all lessons will be taught in English from day one of primary school. At the moment, the first three years are taught through the mother-tongue, Kinyarwanda, with English as a subject, and in year four all lessons are to be taught using English. There is a large volume of research which shows that children learn best, and certainly develop their thinking skills, in their mother-tongue. Rwanda is blessed to have only one mother-tongue across the country. The current system is not working well for various reasons, but one of the reasons is the lack of competence in English of many primary school teachers. This is not surprising as English was only introduced in 2009 after decades of French as the second language. In practice much teaching continues to take place in Kinyarwanda in upper primary (and, indeed, in many secondary school classrooms) as there is not sufficient understanding of English. The solution to this is not, in my opinion, to make English the language of instruction from the very first year of primary school.

 

The link here, https://www.educationeastafrica.org/rwanda/

will take you, if you are interested and have time, to our website, and to some video footage. Ignore the first video of me on Rwandan television (or watch it if you will!) and have a look at the next video which is 7.49 minutes long, which shows how our work is transforming the teaching of English in the lower primary classrooms. Then watch the video below that which is just over 4 minutes long, which shows how English is being taught in a typical government rural primary school with no use of our materials or teaching methods. On that evidence alone, it does seem more than odd that anyone is considering making English the medium of instruction from a pupil’s first day at school.

 

Our programme in Rwanda will continue to fight for the education of these young pupils, and to support and encourage their teachers to continue to work in these difficult conditions.

 

As Christmas and the new year celebrations are upon us, I wish all of you a happy time, and thank you all so much for your extremely kind donations to help our work.

 

I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing all the Rwandan primary school pupils a good start to 2020, and hope that our advocacy on their behalf will be listened to.

 

With very best wishes,

Katy Allen

Director

www.EducationEastAfrica.org  

Education is the Passport to a Self-Sustaining Life

Katy@EducationEastAfrica.org  

 

 


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How times flies! The third and final school term of the year is over half-way through. The term ends on the 8th November, but with end-of-year examinations the teaching will probably cease before the end of October. 

The end-of-year examinations will be set by the Rwanda Education Board for all primary school classes this year, under a new regulation from the government. 

At the end of the second term, in July, we were able to set examinations for the pupils in our project schools. Primary 1 and Primary 2 had oral examinations, and Primary 3 had both an oral and written examination. The results were good with a majority in each school gaining more than 50% of the available marks. The most encouraging result was the written examination for Primary 3. The work the teachers had done to improve the handwriting of the pupils, and their ability to write in English, really paid off. 

Some of our pupils also sat the English examination which was set by the District. I have, so far, not been able to get the results of those examinations. However, I have been given copies of the examination papers. They were so lacking in proper assessment, that I have written a paper analysing them in order to show that those papers would not yield meaningful results. For instance, on both the Primary 1 and Primary 2 paper, the pupils were asked to, ‘Write these words in capital letters: ball, chair ……’. This can be done without knowing or understanding any English! Another question asked pupils to put words in alphabetical order, which, again, is something that can be done without any understanding of the meaning of the words. 

Each part of each question was awarded one mark, and so that allowed no scope for marking spelling, nearly correct answers etc., and gave no scope for giving more marks for more challenging questions. Not only this but there were many mistakes on each paper; there were glaring errors with punctuation and typing, and also the use of incorrect English. 

I have written and submitted my official report about this because the government often blames the teachers for the poor quality of education, and yet there must be good examples set from those responsible for the testing in the first place. 

Our work has recently been lauded, but not actually intentionally! The situation is a little complex: there is a nationwide programme in all government primary schools being run by the British Council in Rwanda, and funded by the UK Department for International Development. Their programme (funded to the tune of £25 million) started in the schools in January 2018. This programme runs under the name of ‘Building Learning Foundations’ (BLF). Their aim is to improve the English of the pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 so that when pupils have all their lessons through the medium of English in Primary 4, they can perform well. This is, of course, what our programme is doing. 

We had discussions with all the key people at the beginning of the BLF programme, and were assured that our programme would not be affected. The English teachers with which we work have been on some training courses run by BLF, but BLF staff are rarely seen in the five primary schools in which we work. However, BLF have ‘discovered’ that English lessons are taking place in which the pupils have an impressive understanding and command of English, and that happens to be in one of our project schools! 

In the middle of September, top officials from BLF went to Kibara Primary School to watch our teacher, Josephine, teach her Primary 2 English class, and were incredibly impressed by what they saw. My colleagues Damian and Ivan were also there, as the head-teacher had informed us of the BLF visit. He felt very concerned that BLF might take credit for our work. 

It was made clear to BLF, and indeed our teacher, Josephine, herself made it clear, that the success in the pupils’ English is because of our programme and our teaching materials. I will be meeting BLF officials to discuss this further.

Next week, government officials are also visiting Kibara Primary School as part of the Ministry of Education’s ‘Quality Education Enhancement Awareness Campaign’. The head teacher will invite them to observe one of Josephine’s English classes, and so I expect that we will receive some positive feedback. 

All of this should help our advocacy for change to the primary school curriculum, and particularly as it affects the learning of English as a foreign language.

As far as our advocacy is concerned, we are yet to have any formal feedback from the Strategy and Planning Unit of the President’s Office, following our meeting there in June. We have heard, though, that they have been making some serious enquiries in the Ministry of Education.

The plans for me to give a presentation to the ruling party’s Education Commission are progressing, and I hope that this will take place this autumn. Things move more slowly than I would like, but after twenty-five years’ working on this continent I’m surprised that I have not adapted better to this!

It is only when people unconnected with our charity, see our work and praise it that I fully appreciate what a difference we are making. 

It is easy to be in the middle of work and the detail of assessment and monitoring, and to forget to appreciate it in the big picture. I see our pupils every day in the classrooms responding to English instructions, and speaking English with full meaning and understanding, and I start to take it for granted. This is not the practice in most of the primary schools here. Many pupils from Primary 1 all the way to Primary 6 know very few sentence structures and struggle to communicate in English. 

Our work is giving our young pupils an excellent start, with confidence in many structures and patterns of English sentences, which is a foundation on which they can easily build. I am more and more aware of what a valuable asset this is for them and how they already stand head and shoulders above the young pupils in other schools.

It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that our work would not happen without your generosity and enthusiasm. On behalf of our teachers and pupils, thank you again and again. Together, we are changing lives in Rwanda. 

With all good wishes,

Katy Allen

Director

www.EducationEastAfrica.org   

Education is the Passport to a Self-Sustaining Life

Katy@EducationEastAfrica.org   

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Organization Information

Education East Africa

Location: DEAL, Kent - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @KiliProject1
Project Leader:
Katy Allen
Director
DEAL, Kent United Kingdom

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