Working to improve learning outcomes in English and Mathematics for 2.6 million children in Rwanda
BLF helped me become a proactive teacher, By Christian Shema

Christian Shema

My name is SHEMA NSENGA Christian, a teacher at Groupe Scolaire APAGIE in Musha in Rwamagana District, Eastern Province, Rwanda.

Besides teaching English for roughly nine years, I have been working as a school-based mentor (SBM) – and as a Mentor Trainer in Musha Sector – since 2014, after the restructuring of the School-Based Mentor Program by Rwanda Education Board. At my school, we have dedicated one afternoon for school-based in-service training/workshops.  The CPD activities we develop include lesson study, lesson planning, classroom management, ICT in education and peer-to-peer learning that is done in departments. Also, like any other English teacher, I write lesson plans, teach and assess students.

Last December, I took part in BLF’s Intensive English Training pilot. I shared a classroom with international trainers as their co-trainer. It was a rich experience and a wake-up call that, despite teaching English for nine years, I still need to catch up with new methods, read about English language teaching and visit websites that offer hints for better language lessons.

I benefited from the experience in many ways. The most important thing I learnt is to always plan the lesson before you teach. Sometimes, in the intensive English training, we would change the plan or revise it to adapt to trainees’ needs; but having a plan was key to the success of the training, I believe. I also loved the ‘teacher talking time’ (TTT) concept. We learnt how to reduce the time we spent talking in order to give learners maximum opportunity to practice their speaking skills. It is a challenging task though.

In addition, there are some activity types that I have learnt and that I have started sharing with my fellow teachers at my school and in my sector. These include ‘back to board’, ‘speed dating’, role plays, ‘think-pair-share’, ‘four corners’ and many more that promote speaking skills. Enthusiastically, I also share with my colleagues how to use dictogloss to teach grammar in a context.

Strangely, as a teacher of English I was a novice to most of these strategies. In order to be familiar with them, I have started using them in my class, seeing how they work with young learners before I share them with teachers and other mentors in my sector.

Some students love participating in the new activities, but some others are not so sure yet. Those who don’t love them feel as if they are not learning because they were used to the teacher doing much of talking and writing a lot of notes. Progressively, they will get used to and appreciate the new style of learning.

These skills are meant for language teaching. So, BLF training at my school will not only benefit English teachers but also Kinyarwanda, French, Swahili and language teachers in general.

Beyond my school, after meeting with the Sector Education Officer (Inspector of Education at sector level), we decided to cascade the training to six schools that are in my sector through conducting a one-day and eye-opening training for SBMs and heads of language departments at every school.

I would love to be part of more BLF training in future. BLF has made me a proactive teacher and given me the tools to become a more knowledgeable mentor who is eager to share knowledge and good practice with other teachers. As a result, more competitive, brilliant and successful students will be produced by the Rwanda education system.

The Building Learning Foundations Programme (BLF) is a programme of the Rwanda Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) and Rwanda Education Board (REB); it is funded by the United Kingdom’s Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as part of its Learning for all Programme in Rwanda.
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