Critical as the "Building Communities" programme is, especially in the short term, we share the Rwandan government's conviction that this small, hilly and densely populated country cannot survive on subsistence farming alone. For the future it is critical to build a more knowledge based economy.
Whilst over 90% of children are registered in nine years basic schooling, there is a high drop-out rate. Reasons for this include poverty, large classes, poor resources and a sudden switch to English as the medium for teaching, but our experience tells us that the main reason is the absence of enough well-trained teachers.
We are piloting and developing an innovative school-based mentor programme which will provide in-service training for teachers with a special emphasis on learner-centred teaching and careful assessment and differentiation.
Key Performance Indicators
We initiated a pilot teacher mentor scheme in 2014 in one remote sector called Bweyeye. Gradually it has developed so that by 2019 we had trained school-based mentors in 250 schools in our two districts.
These mentors are tasked to produce baseline assessments of their schools and then to report annually on progress. This provides us with a clear structure for monitoring and evaluation in each of the schools, as well as for the whole programme.
We are now drilling down to some detailed training which will provide teachers with the skills to bring about marked improvements in learning. At present a lot of the teaching is inflexible, a relentless march through the syllabus regardless of whether the children are coping. There is still a lot of copying from the board, rote learning, chalk and talk, but not a lot of understanding.
We are concentrating on careful, formative assessment and then a drive to teach at the level appropriate to each child's needs. This will be challenging, but we have set bold targets for reduced drop-out rates and improved examination results and we are confident that we will achieve these over the next three years.
If our learning initiative is successful, as we confidently expect it to be, we shall be working with the Rwanda Education Board to replicate this programme throughout the Western Province, and perhaps even beyond that.