In Rwanda, French speaking teachers have successfully adjusted their ability to speak and teach in English, dispelling fears that the country’s switch to English in 2008 was a ‘disastrous’ move.

Prior to that, French was Rwanda’s main official language of instruction.

By switching languages, an entire overhaul of the Education system was conducted to adopt to English.

Under an innovative education program funded by the British Agency for International Development (DFID), more than 200 Rwanda’s French speaking teachers have gradually acquired English language skills.

The teachers instruct form five and six, largely from schools in Bugesera and Nyaruguru districts, and facilitators say all the teachers across the country will be reached.

A Rrwandan teacher engages his students during a lesson. Since 2008, the country replaced French with English as the language of instruction in the education system.
A Rwandan teacher engages his students during a lesson. Since 2008, the country replaced French with English as the language of instruction in the education system.

In 2013, DFID, in partnership with Rwanda, offered £11.9million (Rwf12b) to support 26 projects promoting innovation in country’s education sector, with a bias towards projects promoting English.

Plan International Rwanda-a child rights organisation, received $1million for its exceptional ‘Teacher Self-Learning Academy project’ aimed at improving quality of teaching and learning in Science and English using innovative technology.

Silas Bahigansenga, the project manager in Plan Rwanda told KTPress that the programme will enable former French speaking teachers to reach 73,000 pupils every year.

“We bought iPods and installed them with reference materials where teachers learn from model tutors from other schools and reproduce the learner-centred methodology,” Bahigansenga said.

With each iPod valued at US$300, the devices provide teachers with access to innovative supplementary learning manual of Science and English.

The iPods are installed with many English dictionaries that provide voices that teach beneficiaries’ pronunciation.

Beneficiaries watch the model video lessons that were filmed from selected schools, from communities of practice and discuss what they have learnt from the instructional videos they watched, and later put it into practice in classes.

When Angelo Nsengiyumva, who teaches in primary six at Kagasa School in Bugesera district, southern Rwanda,  was told to change his teaching methodology from French to English, he almost dropped down his 30 years profession.

“You see when you personally can’t pronounce words properly, feeding children with what you don’t perfectly do just kills them.” he told KTPress.

Damas Mvuyekure a teacher at Munege primary School in Nyaruguru District said, “This iPod has wiped off my worries.”

“Teaching in English was a burden, but most of us are becoming perfect tutors and speakers,” Mvuyekure says.

Peter Van Dommelen, Plan Rwanda Director said, “We are looking for more funds to extend the project to other areas of the country.”

Rwanda is now a member of the Commonwealth and the East African Community, all English speaking cohorts.

Apart from the language being tough as a sole subject, French might as well just say “au revoir.”

 




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