Friday, May 21, 2010

Library Project: Update and Photos

A while ago Tina, the VSO volunteer who lived here before me, put the call out to get books for the schools in Rwanda. When I arrived at our house in Kibungo there were loads and a few months later three more bags showed up! Tina had to return home before the project was complete and so I’ve been working with schools to figure out the best way to disseminate 200 books. There are 65 primary schools in this district. Most schools have close to or over 1000 students. How do we do it? So, with the support of the District we chose two schools in geographically different locations: Bare in Mutendeli sector and Nyamugali in Remera sector. To date, the Bare library is up and running and the Nyamugali library is just starting.

Monday I arrived at Bare and their schedule was complete, the desks were arranged and the books were ready to be read. In a system that is so focused on teaching grammar, literacy is suffering. The schedule has allowed for each class to have one 40 minute library period per week. I worked with the teachers to explain that this might be a 40 period where the children are not “taught” with chalk and talk but rather, they can explore the books at their own level. The teachers were so enthusiastic and supportive. They marched the little ones to the door and gave an explanation about what a library is. Word spread quickly around the school and classes began to look forward to their turn. There are 100 books in the library right now. Unfortunately, the reading level of most of the books is too high right now. These kids, besides being to new to books complete, are also new to English. As time goes one, however, I’m sure this will improve. Still, children sat and shared books. They pointed to pictures and whispered the English words – if they knew them – to their friends. While the higher level students could read and understand some of what they read, the little P1 students didn’t even know what to do. Their little feet dangled below them and their chins barely made it ot the top of the desk. A book was put in front of them and they stared. They just stared. The teacher and I spent 40 minutes showing them how to hold a book, how to look at the pictures with their friends and, when they were finished one page, how to turn to the next. It took most of the class time to get them to move from sitting quietly and staring at the book, to actively engaging in the process. By the time today – Friday – rolled around, the children got the point and were reading and talking and pointing to pictures and using the little English that they do have. The Senior 2 class was in and were so enganged that the teacher and I spent most of the time running around helping kids who wanted to know the meanings of words. At the end, each group presented a new word that they learned that class and they were annoyed when we told them their time was up.

Most people think that “kids in Africa must just be hungry for education!” It’s true, I supposed, that the kids here are well behaved in class but the secondary students hide behind the bathrooms brushing their hair when they should be in class, just like those in Canada. The boys skip out of the room the minute the teacher leaves and hide behind the water tank. They thirst for break time, like kids in Canada, and saunter back to class unless the head masters hurries them along. Kids are kids. But I believe all kids want to learn. 99% of the time, if a teacher creates the conditions for learning EVERY child will rise to the occasion. At Bare, this week, they definitely did.

Next week, the focus will be on Nyamugali school. The books have been delivered so it’s just a matter of time before we are there too. The project is not complete (as if a library will ever be complete!) but there are a number of people who have helped with this project and deserve a huge thank you. If I’ve forgotten you, I’m sorry but do know that your books have been delivered directly into the hands of the people who will use them – the children of Ngoma District in Rwanda.

Thank you to: Christine Haefele of New York; Nora from England; Jutta Oezsen, Sandy and Michael from Essen, Germany; Samie from Quebec; Gichi and Carlos; Yana; Kristin Lazure and David How; Alles Giese; Katja, Gisten, Guther and Connor; Renate; Sobi; Astrid and Max Hansen; Jenny, Tobias and Laeticia Campbell-Klomps; Sabine and her family from Berlin; Antonia and Moritz; the staff and students of the German School in London; the staff and students of Blessed John XXIII in Calgary and especially Tina Hewing – who started this big little project. Stayed tuned for more updates on how the libraries are doing.

P1 children lined up and ready to go.

S1 student reading on her own.
This is the S1 teacher, Denise, who was thrilled that kids were reading. Of course, it wasn't a free period. In addition to helping them with new words, she had kids give her a summary of what they were reading.

P6 students. This is a large class and so there aren't enough desks but the kids got cozy and read away!
P3 students
P5 students ready to come in.
P1 students
This great book is an adding book. There are slats that pull out with the answers, which the kids loved.
Waiting to come in.
Rushing into the library!

Showing me where Rwanda is on the map.
The new vocabulary from S2 students.
S2 A class had their library period today. They were engaged and enthusiastic and teaching each other English. THe teacher, Egide (standing on far left) and I just walked around helping.
These are the books heading to Nyamugali. It reminds me how few books there really are. The generosity of the donors made such a big difference with so few books. A school of 1000 students will share 100 books. It just reminds me how lucky we really are.

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