INVESTING IN SYSTEMIC CHANGE
BY MARIE JEANNE MUKESHIMANA, GASABO QUALITY EDUCATION TRAINER
Our vision for the Gasabo district is to continue strengthening all levels of education so that little intervention is eventually needed from our side. Our vision is to support school-level Continuous Professional Development activities, and to see the sector and district provide meaningful support for this work. We need to empower those we work with to build a bottom-up systemic approach from the school to the district. At the same time, a top-down approach will be strengthened as district & sector leaders are empowered to support school leaders and teachers.
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING TOWARDS THIS VISION IN 2019?
Our Gasabo team has been working hard to support all levels of education from the district to the school level. We have trained teachers, Sector Education Inspectors, District Education Officers, and the District Director of Education, enabling them to follow up on the teaching and learning activities taking place in their schools.
One key area of focus in recent months has been on laying the foundation for continuous professional development (CPD), as this has a key part to play in sustaining quality education. There has been great progress at the school level, with teachers organizing training sessions and peer learning activities, but there is still work to be done at the sector and district levels. As such, we have been working hard to help sector/district leaders to identify the professional needs of teachers, to plan meaningful professional development activities, and to really take ownership of this area, so that all Gasabo educators can benefit from professional development activities throughout their careers.
WHAT KIND OF CHANGE ARE YOU WITNESSING AT THE SYSTEMIC LEVEL?
We are really happy about what has taken place in each sector of the Gasabo district as we continue working towards the sustainability mentioned above. They have all now put in place “Sector Continuous Professional Development Committees” to ensure a focus on this area, and are conducting CPD activities in their schools. Officials at the sector level are really changing their attitude towards their role in this area too, understanding that they have a key part to play. And at the district level, District Education Officers are now willing to be part of all trainings taking place – not as inspectors and supervisors, but as learners. I remember one day when we were in conducting school leader training, one District Education Officer said that she was happy to participate in a training which is purely talking about education and testified that she has learnt many things which will help her do her job better.
CAN YOU SHARE A STORY THAT DEMONSTRATES THIS IMPACT?
Dismas, a Sector Education Inspector in Gikomero, was among those who didn’t understand the role of “Sector Continuous Professional Development Committee”, or the important role they play in empowering teachers. However, after Wellspring’s training, he started being involved in some activities – and his story amazed me. One day he visited a nearby school and asked teachers if they knew how to use computers … which, with the exception of the ICT teacher, they did not. It also turned out that the same was true for the other schools in the sector. Immediately, Dismas planned training on the use of computers. After teachers were trained, he invited students in other schools to come and learn computer skills, and in partnership with the school head teacher, he put in place a timetable for other schools to bring students for computer classes. Since then, Dismas has discovered other training needs in his sector and now has a good plan to address them through professional development activities.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR RECENT WORK WITH GASABO TEACHERS?
Yes, our Gasabo team has been involved in various activities recently that have engaged teachers. First, we conducted lesson observations for a sample of 50 teachers to better understand how formative assessment is used in classes (formative assessment focuses on improving students’ learning). During these observations, we were happy to see that all teachers are asking students questions throughout the lessons. However, further support and training is needed to ensure the quality of these questions, as well as making sure that students’ answers inform the next steps in their learning. We also visited schools to meet 54 School-Based Mentors; these are teachers selected to support their colleagues in methodology and English through school-level professional development activities. We interviewed each of these mentors, and in many cases we also observed their lessons.
WHERE ARE YOU SEEING THE GREATEST IMPACT WITH THESE TEACHERS?
In the observations mentioned above, we noticed a number of changes among teachers, including in the use of English. In 2008, the government of Rwanda declared English to be the medium of instruction in schools, instead of French, and this abrupt shift was not easy because few teachers were comfortable to use English in their teaching. With the new competence-based curriculum (CBC) launched in 2016, much focus was put on the English language, and that is why School-Based Mentors were appointed and why some have initiated English clubs for teachers. Wellspring’s efforts to ensure Continuous Professional Development through weekly peer learning at each school have had a very positive impact on teachers, including in this area. Today, teachers are improving the use of English in their lessons, which is likely to improve the level of English for learners in the future. In order to support learners, English teachers, in collaboration with School-Based Mentors, have also initiated English clubs for learners with some drama, debate and reading activities.
HOW IS THIS MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO GASABO'S STUDENTS?
The training of values to teachers by Wellspring is yielding more positive results on children than anyone would expect. Rwanda’s Competence-Based Curriculum requires that cross-cutting issues be taught across subjects whenever there is an opportunity to do so – and the values that Wellspring has been instilling in Gasabo schools for years are embedded in these cross-cutting issues. In one school, the teaching of these cross-cutting issues is changing the mindset of learners. After being aware of various environmental issues, some children at Kibara Primary School realized that there is some landslide in the school compound on the way leading to the toilets. So they came up with a strategy to cope with this issue on their own. They brought some stones and sand bags, and dug pits to contain the rain water which was washing away the soil. In the same school, one learner noticed that there were few trees in the school garden and by himself decided to bring trees and plant them in the school garden without telling anyone. Later, the leaders realized that the garden was full of trees and other learners also followed his steps by planting more trees in the school garden!
HOW CAN OUR PARTNER COMMUNITY PRAY FOR YOU?
Our team working in Gasabo district would like to request your prayers. We have some ideas about possible future opportunities in Gasabo, but we need God’s guidance in all of this. We would like to grow our program to have a unique impact across the district.
We would also like to pray that God would grant wisdom to educational leaders at policy level, to help them introduce changes to the education sector that bring greater quality of education to the children of Rwanda.
Please pray that we will have wisdom to manage the complexity of the work we are doing, especially as our beneficiaries are pulled in many directions that they can’t control.
Please pray too that the educational leaders we work with will have wisdom as they support teachers in achieving their goals.