Sunday, June 26, 2011

Workshops, workshops, workshops

It's the end of a very busy fortnight. We're not quite finished yet. We still have one more "planning lessons" workshop for 40 teachers on Tuesday morning and another "Methodology and Resources" one in the afternoon of the same day. Then, we're all done for the time being and all that remains before we come home for a well deserved break in July is to do all of the reports for the District, the Mayor and the Ministry and visit one or two schools more for follow up.

We've put together a few more pictures of the workshops. So, just click on the link below and you'll see a bit more of what we've been up to.

Rwanda Workshops June 2011

Our visit to Nzige

Cam in her tropical garden

You will have seen in previous posts that our VSO colleague, Camilla has joined us on a few occasions in Rwamagana. Now it was our turn to visit her. In fact, we were her first visitors and the second of our Sector Workshops was to be in the Teacher Training College where she is a Lecturer in Methodology and her main work is to set up a resource centre using local materials. The workshop was in her well-equipped resource centre. She has done an amazing job and transformed the place from a room with no windows and furniture to an Aladdin’s Cave of resources, almost all of which she has made herself. A very talented lady!

She lives in Nzige which is an hour’s moto ride from our home over the most varied scenery you could possibly imagine from rolling hills, rice fields, valleys, remote villages and lines of trees with ditches sprouting water lilies to hundreds of people walking to market and the fields, collecting water or just passing the time of day. It’s a hard ride and so far we are the only ones that have done it from the VSO community because of its remoteness. Camilla lives in a house in the centre of town and, being the only Muzungu, is the centre of attention as you can imagine. She has a beautiful garden which she tells us she doesn’t have to lift a finger to maintain. She gave us a brilliant weekend and bought a mattress in our honour. Well done, Cam, for being one of VSOs country cousins!

Nzige Residence

Sector Headteacher Workshops

Workshop in Cam's Teacher Resource Centre
The first workshop we did was for Headteachers in the Kigabiro and Muhazi sectors on leadership and management in March. Since then, we have done training for newly appointed Headteachers and have been visiting schools on a day to day basis. The plan was to do it for all of the sectors in the district. This involves grouping sectors (or sub-districts), finding a venue in the middle and inviting all school Heads for the one day workshop. So, we have done three of them in the last two weeks and, I’m pleased to say, that now all 75 Heads in the Rwamagana District have been involved.

As with Mary’s workshop, the evaluations were very good but the main comment was that they wanted more and especially for the teachers in their schools. Sadly, there are only two of us but we hope that it can be carried on by other volunteers after we have gone.

Camilla doing her bit with the Heads
The workshop dealt with different kinds of leadership and management, the difference between the two, planning lessons and expectations of Heads of their staff, school effectiveness and materials from local sources. A big order for 6 ½ hours but we did it even if all, especially us, were shattered at the end. Again the challenge was language and it got more difficult towards the latter workshops and the last one had to be done in French with a little English. If nothing else, my French has improved but I am not sure that talking about school effectiveness will stand me in good stead when we get our next Gite in Bretagne!!!!!
Ordering the parts of a lesson
Mary teaching Japanese numbers

Methodology and Materials Workshops

Describing the materials
Right from the beginning of our time here, despite the fact that we had different jobs, we decided that we would work together in everything and we have more or less kept that up. Mary prepared a series of half day workshops which we delivered together on the practical stuff a teacher needs in schools. Now generally here the learning environment is just the classroom and a chalk board, so we set out to add a few rice sacks (posters), counters made from bottle tops and flashcards made from biscuit packets and much, much more. Concerning the last, we had to eat a great deal of varieties of biscuit to provide the necessary shapes and sizes of flashcard but our sacrifice will be the gain of the children of Rwanda!!

We started with the schools where Mary works and will probably roll out this workshop in many other schools before we leave. The evaluations have been great and what we have done has been greatly welcomed by the teachers. We did half-day workshops involving 9 schools in the first week and several more the next week. Practice makes perfect and we feel we could practically do it in our sleep now. Well done, Mary, for such a varied workshop with so many different aspects to it, from songs to resources and games to evaluation techniques. It was all there in less than four hours each one. The biggest challenge for us was language. Although the language of instruction has changed to English in the last two years, few teachers are yet comfortable with it and so we had to use a mixture of English and French as, as you can imagine, our Kinyarwanda was not up to it!
Mary in full flow

A good attempt

Maths from bottle tops

The welcome and aims

Preparing for a busy two weeks

Cutting up rice sacks to make posters
Everything comes at a price and the price of doing 10 workshops in a couple of weeks is working through the weekend. But we don’t do it very often and when we must, we do. This is practical stuff, mainly for Mary’s half day workshops on Methodology, making materials and child-centred education. The office is too small so we work and store things at home. As our home is not much bigger than a fixed-site caravan in Bognor, it can be a bit of a squeeze but we manage because, above all, VSOs are imaginative, flexible and good at improvising. Well, that’s the theory and the two of us try.

Storage on the bed in the kitchen

Preparing materials

Give us our living room back!
I think the pictures speak for themselves. Well, in a couple of week’s time, we’ll get our house back and, I’m sure it will all have been worth it!

Copying a map of Rwamagana

Getting Around

In Guyana, it was taxis, minibuses, planes and boats. In Rwanda, boats are few and far between, minibuses generally on the main roads, taxis far too expensive and planes only if you intend to fly out of the country. However, most of our journeys to schools go off the main road and into the countryside away from the main roads. Some of them are well maintained if not a little bumpy but many have seen better days from the ravages of the rainy season creating huge potholes and furrows that can go on for ages which are gouged into the ground and see the rain off when it comes with a vengeance. Added to this, Rwanda is not called “Mille Collins” (Land of a Thousand Hills” for nothing. No trip to a school is without its amazing views, long drops and rolling countryside with every square centimetre cultivated whether it’s banana, beans, tomatoes, maize and all the rest you can think of!

So, how do we get around? There are moto taxis everywhere. Every town has its group of licensed young lads on their machines waiting to take you wherever you want, whatever the terrain for a price. Most are beyond the local people who prefer the cheaper bicycle taxis but that would take an age and, being a little on the large size ourselves, would probably give the drivers a coronary with those steep inclines. Generally our rides can be from 10 minutes to up to an hour and, as we go to two schools a day, that can be hard on the nether regions! But the views are to die for and the welcome in the schools is well worth the effort.

We have two regular drivers who look after us and we look after them. They are always on time and, most of all, very safe. In fact, Mary wants hers to go faster – the speed merchant that she is. I’m happy with plodding along especially when you look at those 600ft drops that are just 12 inches away to the side of the road. But they don’t want us to fall off any more than we do, so we feel very safe.