Handwriting Seminar October 2018
Education East Africa Quarterly Report
UPDATE FROM KIGALI
Happy New Year to everyone.
The last three months have been quiet. The school holidays started earlier than expected, and school examinations and national examinations were held before the end of term. The last teaching week was at the end of October.
Before the end of term, on Saturday 13th October we held a seminar on Handwriting. This was a great success with 58 teachers in attendance (as well as two babies who came on the backs of their mothers) from our project schools who teach pre-primary/nursery, and who teach Kinyarwanda and English to Primary 1, 2 and 3. In addition, there were Directors of Studies from the schools, and one of the head teachers.
The teachers imitated the patterns which young children should draw to prepare them for handwriting, and then the teachers were given time to practise forming the letters of the alphabet and to see that those letters should be introduced in ‘families’ according to the hand movement used in their formation. We talked about the need to introduce small (lower case) letters before introducing capital letters. This gave rise to a healthy discussion as the Rwanda curriculum introduces small and capital letters together. We then looked at the relation between reading and writing, and what that means for teaching each skill. Finally, we looked at the teaching of writing in English. It was a very lively half-day, and the teachers were most appreciative of such a relevant and useful seminar.
Good news before the end of term was that we were able to get another car. This was essential as we cannot do our work without transport. A lot is expected of our car, travelling an hour each way on mainly rough roads to get to the schools. The old car is waiting for a decision to be made about its fate; whether to spend money on getting it road-worthy for a better sale price, or to try to sell it in its current condition!
The new school year starts on the 14th January. The long holiday is a problem for us, as the pupils forget so much of their English! They only speak and practise English in their lessons, as no English is spoken in the normal course of their lives. The start of the new school year will not only mean the pupils getting used to new English teachers, but also having to revise most of last year’s work.
A new school year brings changes in teachers, and decisions have to be made with each school about which teachers will teach which pupils. Some teachers like to follow their pupils to the next level, while others like to repeat their work with the materials they have already used. One head teacher wrote to me just the other day, ‘I am in preparation of starting the academic year 2019 purchasing school materials, sharing subjects to be taught, searching for teachers to replace those who went…’.
This year we will be working with Primary 3 pupils, as well as those in Primary 1 and 2. It is in the first three years of primary school that pupils learn English as a foreign language. Once in Primary 4, all lessons are supposed to be taught through the medium of English. Our work this year will be crucial in our ‘action research’ to show that our approach to teaching English can and does prepare pupils properly for what is expected of them in Primary 4.
The new school year is an opportunity to work with renewed energy with education officials on the need for change. The Minister for Education has yet to comment on the substantial report I submitted to him at his request as a ‘rationale for change’. The President continues to place emphasis on the importance of education in the development of the country. My experience and the papers and reports that I have written, coupled with the very successful use of our materials, now need to be given attention at the highest level, and I will be aiming for that this year. At the ‘grassroots’ level we already have a proven track-record, and the same Head teacher as above added in his note, ‘I thank you so much because you are among the important people who have helped me with advice and help to enable me to fulfil my responsibilities in education, and I learned from you so much, and I wish to continue this year 2019’.
For him, and all the teachers who work so hard to help their pupils, I will continue to work and help as best I can, and hope that 2019 will see not just more good results in English teaching and learning, but also developments towards much-needed change.
Thank you to all our donors who give so generously and who care about the educational potential of the primary school pupils. It cannot be said too often, that one of the greatest gifts any child can be given is that of a good education.
Let’s hope that 2019 will be a happy and successful year for us all.
Very many thanks indeed.
Katy Allen-Mtui - Director
Education is the Passport to a Self-Sustaining Life
Teacher Jean d'Amour w/ P2 class at Kibara primary