My first moto ride in Rwanda was to a school called Rukira in Murama Sector. At the time I was holding on for dear life – contemplating jumping off – and wondering how I was going to do this for the next 12 months. Cruising down the highway as it snaked toward Tanzania, I smiled at Tina to let her know I was enjoying this when in my head I was thinking, “Are you kidding me?” I got off and my legs and arms were shaking so badly but I toughed it out. Six months and countless moto rides later, it has become the best part about living here. Today as we drove to Rukira, the mist was in the valley and when Patrick cut his motor to save power, all I could hear was the wind whistling through my helmet. It was absolutely memorable. It was beautiful. We coasted for a while until inertia caught up with us and, without thinking lifted my right leg so Patrick could start the bike again.
Angelique, who is the head master of Rukira, is always so welcoming and also so willing to let me speak French with her. We organized all the teachers and for the morning made visual aids. I know that visual aids will never replace good teaching, and I know that these teachers may not have the time to create these on their own and so this is perhaps not entirely sustainable, but the fact is the classrooms here lack visual exposure to concepts that children need to see frequently. If I can encourage, even a few teachers, to begin using rice sacks to create visual aids, then that is hundreds of kids that will benefit. Plus, because there are 65 schools and one of me, its something concrete I can demonstrate and help with which requires little follow up if there is a head teacher that is determined (which Angelique is!) I have found that this is a difficult concept for teachers because they, as students, were not exposed to them. In the west, we have all seen caldeners and number lines and periodic tables for ever! They got us to look around and see that learning is everywhere. But this is a new concept here.
I begin by having teachers write their name on name cards. Then we all stand back and judge to see who’s is the easiet to read. The ones that are clear, simple, centred and with minimal white space are clearly the best – we all agree. Then I ask them to write their names again so that a P1 child could easily read it.
We go from there where we talk about what should be on a rice sack, and what is better left to chalk and chalkboard. I focus on teachers chosing basic and fundamental skills instead of specific concepts. For the most part teachers come up with great ideas on their own. Basically, I think they just need the time to do this. They teach from 7:20 until 5pm with an hour for lunch and maybe 40 minutes of prep time. It’s enough for us – in the west – to run a few store bought items through the laminator but it’s not enough time. So fort 3 hours today we cut and sealed and drew and it was fantastic!
The drive home was in stark contrast to the early morning coast down through the valley. We got stuck behind a bus chuffing out black smoke all the way up the hill. We finally managed to pass it only to be caught behind another trailer truck and another, and another…..
At home I popped into Moses’ restaurant to have a look. We shared a Fanta as he told me that his business is doing well. It’s right next to Moderne and so I asked him if he’d be stealing customers away from his dad. He just laughed. Moses – incase I haven’t mentioned him before – is a 21 year old former teacher. He is really trying to improve his English but left teaching, even though he left it, because he could make more at the restaurant.
So here I sit, enjoying Friday afternoon (I did some work from home as the office was locked and I gave Jeremy the key because he’s usually there more than me). Tomorrow I head to Kigali again for book swap and I only hope this time, when I use the hand dryer at the UTC washroom, a cockroach does not fall out of it.
Have a great weekend everybody!