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BLF Digest #9 is Out!

July 13th, 2021 by

Welcome to the 9th issue of the BLF Digest, our quarterly magazine that gives you an insight into the work we are doing in all public and government aided primary schools to improve learning outcomes in English and mathematics in Rwanda. This is a special issue that focuses on how we are empowering girls through Education. You do not want to miss this great edition! Read more: BLF DIGEST #9

 

Building Learning Foundations seeks to empower girls in Mathematics in Rwanda

May 20th, 2021 by

On 12th May 2021, the Building Learning Foundations programme held several events to mark International Day for Girls in Mathematics. The event was celebrated under the theme, “Empower girls in Mathematics, Start Early”. The day is celebrated annually around the world and seeks to inspire women to celebrate their achievements in mathematics and to encourage an open, welcoming and inclusive work environment in mathematics-related fields.

                               A mathematics teacher at GS Kimironko one shows learners how to measure heights

 

The events included a virtual webinar and a girls mathematics challenge competition at school level in five districts.

The panel discussion facilitated by Faith Mbabazi BLF’s Communication Manager saw contributions from Dr. Marie-Christine Gasingirwa, Applied Sciences Analyst at Rwanda’s Higher Education Council, Marie Chantal Bizimana, BLF Sector Learning and Jean Marie Vianney Munyaneza, BLF’s and Gender Specialist for BLF, who each spoke to the various barriers and challenges to girls engaging with Mathematical sciences as well as the necessary efforts that are underway to address these issues.

Despite gender parity at primary level in Rwanda, girls are consistently underrepresented in STEM subjects at upper secondary and tertiary levels. Any type of underrepresentation inevitably leads to missed opportunities and the loss of mathematical talent – at both an individual and national level. The causes of such underrepresentation, according to our panelists, lie predominantly in a variety of barriers which continue to prevent girls from developing a strong and well-supported passion for mathematics from an early age. 

In her remarks, Dr Marie Christine said the present barriers are entrenched deep down in families and that for this to change, it’s important to deal with the family structure. She explained that why barriers still exist despite strategies in place, is due to the fact that resilience among humans is very difficult and that the desired changes can’t happen overnight.

“But with policies in place and continued support for the girls, change will happen eventually. They will learn from the women in the space, their passion will encourage them. Currently we have more opportunities, if we had them back then, we would have more women in mathematics,” she said.

Gasingirwa noted that the more we have all people empowered the better the development will be.

“What we need to understand is how relevant mathematics is on every level, this is why it matters that we introduce this to the girls earlier in life. In Rwanda, we want to go much faster but there are still obstacles; these may be conscious or unconscious, but there is progress.”

“What is remaining is for people to remove the stereotypes that keep blocking progress. We want to fly because we are in a changing world, we need to be equipped with tools, we need to be bold, feel empowered academically and be able to apply the knowledge that we have acquired,” she added.

Chantal Bizimana, Sector Learning Facilitator for the Building Learning Foundations programme, mentioned the case with the learning process that at times doesn’t consider challenges girls face in accessing education especially those in the science field.

“Girls are sometimes not quick when learning mathematics but when a teacher has the right techniques they can excel just like boys. It’s important for teachers to encourage them and ensure that they are not lagging behind. Teachers should be supportive too and help them overcome that fear of science subjects believing that it’s meant for boys alone,” she explained.

Adopted approaches

Jean Marie Vianney Munyaneza, a gender and safeguarding specialist with BLF revealed that what needs to be done is to address the existing inequalities between men and women, boys and girls.

“When you dig deep, you see that these differences are rooted in the habits and attitudes of society. It makes it difficult for the girls to be on equal ground with their male counterparts. These negative stereotypes, unconscious biases, issues of sexual abuse, is what affects their mental health and consequently their health and performance in school”, he observed.

“Girls often report lower confidence than boys do in their math and science abilities as a result of the cultural belief that science and math are male domains. This affects girls to offer mathematics as a subject and for even those who have taken it, to continue performing.”

Munyaneza hence challenged women and men to defy their social norms and empower both boys and girls.

“BLF has adopted a gender transformative approach at all levels of programme implementation. Our approach works at intersections of gender equality, diversity and inclusion. This is what we hope to help counteract these misconceptions.”

He also mentioned the need to expose both boys and girls to successful role models in the science field.

“A combination of general and goal-targeted interventions which foster supportive, stereotype-free learning environment will build girls’ interest and confidence in maths.”

Schools and communities can also be proactive in exposing pupils to successful female role models in STEM, especially if there are any from the school alumni, while also implementing a combination of general and girl-targeted interventions and extracurricular activities to foster a supportive, stereotype-free environment to build girls’ interests and confidence.

School closures in the context of Covid-19: An inequity impact assessment of Primary pupils

April 28th, 2021 by

Following Covid-19-related school closures across Rwanda, our UKAid funded Building Learning Foundations team commissioned an inequity impact assessment of the country’s primary-age school population to investigate how children from different backgrounds and contexts have fared during the period of closures, and to inform plans for school reopening.

In response to outbreak of Covid-19 in the country, the Government of Rwanda (GoR) decided to close all schools on 14th March 2020 as part of a packet of interventions to ensure public safety. Following this decision, the Rwanda Basic Education Board (REB) and its partners pivoted their approach to rapidly deliver remote learning through online platforms as part of the Covid-19 education response plan developed by the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC).

To inform school reopening plans in this context, Building Learning Foundations (BLF) commissioned an Inequity Impact Assessment of Rwanda’s primary-age school population to investigate how children from different backgrounds have been able to access and benefit from learning opportunities during this period.

The study followed a descriptive research design, and a mixed methods approach was adopted, entailing the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data. 1,860 individuals (comprising 418 girls, 388 boys, 494 mothers, 365 fathers, and 195 local opinion leaders) were purposively sampled from twelve districts, covering both urban and rural settings, to participate in the field-level research.  

The study found that despite the availability of diverse learning platforms (namely radio lessons, telephones, television, and other web-based channels), the majority of parents were unaware of their existence. Interventions to raise awareness of these learning platforms were limited: only 55% of parents confirmed that they found out about remote learning opportunities through official radio announcements, while another 19% reported having found out by chance, as opposed to being informed or sensitised.

In addition, while radio ownership was thought to be widespread, only 30% of surveyed families confirmed having a radio device, although 42% of children reported that they had followed radio lessons. 

There was a surprising lack of learning at household level:  just 48% of the parents surveyed reported that they were doing any type of supplemental learning in the household setting. The study highlighted particular dangers for pre-adolescent and adolescent girls in terms of learning loss, as well as children for with either disabilities or chronic diseases. All of these children and young people were at particular risk of being left behind when schools reopened. Worryingly, 26% of parents who had a child with a disability said they were not learning at home at all. The study showed diverse reasons for this, such as children being unmotivated to learn and parents’ economic concerns, which may prevent children from returning to school.

In preparation for school reopening, the study recommended targeted interventions to ensure the most vulnerable return to their education as quickly as possible. These included, among other interventions, dedicated parental engagement, community mobilisation (such as back-to-school campaigns), targeted interventions towards expectant or breastfeeding young mothers, adaptive distance learning strategies and ensuring the inclusion of children with disabilities. The Impact assessment can be found here. 

BLF Digest #8 is Out!

April 22nd, 2021 by

Welcome to the 8th issue of the BLF Digest, our quarterly magazine that gives you an insight into the work we are doing in all public and government aided primary schools to improve learning outcomes in English and mathematics in Rwanda. This is a special issue that focuses on how BLF is supporting schools in Rwanda to build lasting partnerships with the community. You do not want to miss this great edition!

Read more   BLF Digest #8

BLF’s English for Teaching course brings online language learning to rural Rwanda

April 14th, 2021 by

As part of our UKAID funded Building Learning Foundations (BLF) programme in Rwanda, 1,598 lower-primary English teachers have completed a 6 months online English for Teaching (EfT) course.

This first phase of the course roll-out combined online self-study with live English lessons via video conferencing and was the first of its kind in Rwanda.  BLF provided tablets with 4G internet connection, and a team of 26 international e-moderators hosted the live sessions and supported teachers to complete the self-study part of the course.  88% of the teachers who took part in the course successfully passed and were awarded end-of-course certificates. 

As part of BLF’s sustainability strategy, 50 Rwandan school-based mentors also supported the teachers as locally-based online learning tutors.  The tutors have now completed a course in e-moderation and teaching live online through Consultants-E, in preparation to lead on course delivery to thousands more lower-primary teachers in phases 2 and 3.

Xaverina Niyoyita is a year 2 English teacher in Mugambazi primary school, located in the remote Rulindo District of northern Rwanda. She says that her confidence in English speaking has greatly increased because of the opportunity she got to practice her skills at the live sessions and in frequent discussions with her e-moderator.

“I have never had an interesting training course like this one offered by BLF since I joined the teaching profession 24 years ago. I could not imagine myself being able to hold a 10 minutes conversation in English with such confidence, but now you can hear how we can converse in English

Xaverina said that her experience has inspired her to start an English club in her school and continue engaging her colleagues to use more English around school. She was nervous at the start of the course as she had no experience in using this kind of technology, but by the end of the course she and her colleagues were more tech savy: “I didn’t know how to use email and to engage with others on the online forum, but thanks to our moderators now I am very good at using technology” Xaverina added.

BLF hopes to continue offering this course to teachers in all of Rwanda’s thirty districts over the next year, in order to meet its language proficiency goals of increasing the percentage of teachers across Rwanda with a minimum of B1 level English.

English language training for teachers is one strand of BLF’s support for improving learning outcomes in primary English and Mathematics. We also continue supporting teachers nationwide through school-based communities of practice, provision of self-study CPD toolkits, and provision of high-quality pupil activity books.

BLF Digest #7 is out!

January 28th, 2021 by

Welcome to the BLF Digest Magazine issue #7. This issue focuses on how BLF is supporting MINEDUC to get all students back to school. Read more BLF Digest#7_December 2020 

Supporting teen mothers to return to school safely

January 25th, 2021 by

One of the impacts of Covid-19 is an anticipated rise in the number of pregnant girls who face many challenging consequences, including dropping out of school.

According to health researcher and reproductive health expert Dr Aniceth Nzabonimpa, family poverty, child labour, early marriages, domestic work, teen pregnancy and unsafe abortion escalated during the pandemic – issues that might prevent many young girls from going back to school unless rapid intervention takes place.

As part of the Back-to-School Campaign, vulnerable children are targeted for support to ensure that they do not miss out on their education.  Pregnant and new mothers are one of the focuses for this campaign, and SNECOs and SLFs have been working tirelessly with schools, Head Teachers, Sector Education Inspectors and other officials to assist with this.

Nshuti  Jean de Dieu, a SNECO from Rulindo District, has been covering the district of Nyarugenge for the last month.  At GS Kubusunza the Director of Studies Mukarufonsi Marie Claudine and Focal Teacher Louise Tuyambaze explained to Nshuti that the school is very favourable to all students in order to enable them to learn. They accept and support learners according to their needs, which has encouraged several mother learners studying there.

SNECO Nshuti at a hospital with a student mother and grandmother

One of these is a P5 student, Umutoni (not real name), who has been studying at the school despite having an 11-month-old baby.  The mother is from Nyakabanda Sector, and the school told Nshuti that they are trying their best to integrate her in school activities, responding to her needs as a mother.  For example, if the child is ill they give her permission to leave school and try to repeat the lesson that she has missed in her absence.

At EP Muhima, Alice (not real name) is a 16-year-old student in P5 who delivered a baby at the beginning of January.  She was taken straight to the hospital from school with help from the school and sector officials who provided a car.  During her pregnancy, the school would provide her with healthy food in order to have a balanced diet for her and her baby, and the School Accountant explained to Nshuti that the school had made alterations to the uniform to enable her to continue wearing this.

During her pregnancy and since the birth, sector officials visit her both at home and at school to ensure she is integrated and receives the support she needs.  The Focal Teacher Nyirandegeya Emmerence, who is currently acting as a headteacher while the headteacher is on medical leave, said that she was able to mobilise teachers, delegating responsibilities to ensure that they were all able to contribute to the student’s welfare.  The school bought her hygiene materials and one of the teachers attended hospital with her, along with her mother, when she went into labour.

One of Nshuti’s neighbours had a 16-year-old house maid called Therese.  Nshuti was able to convince his neighbour that Therese should go to school and to support her to do this. BLF SNECO and Sector learning Facilitator talked to Therese who said that she had completed P6 and a national exam at GS Kivumu, Rutsiro District.  Therese comes from a family that is placed under the first category of Ubudehe which means the government will support her education and she can study for free. Therese was worried that the school may deny her an education and they will want her to pay fees, so BLF team in collaboration with local authorities in Rutsiro district are going to arrange for her to return to school.

In Rulindo District, BLF SNECO Diane has been supporting GS Murama, Kisaro Sector, with a girl who, when she found out she was pregnant, had refused to come back to school.  The Head teacher and inclusive education Focal teacher went to visit her and her parents and after discussions, were able to persuade them that the girl should come back to school, and that the school would do all they could to keep her safe and well cared for. The school supported her and another pregnant student with free healthy food, and take extra time to explain lessons to them that they may miss.

In Burera district, SNECO Jean Claude Sabato has been supporting the Focal Teacher and Head teacher at GS Jean de Lamennais to reach out to 4 pregnant girls who fell pregnant during the covid 19 national lockdown in March 2020.Together, they managed to persuade three of them to come back to school.

These examples demonstrate the importance of working together with schools, as a team, to include one of the most vulnerable groups of students and to enable them, as mothers, to be able to receive an education that will serve them with job opportunities and future prospects for themselves and their child.

An inclusive return to school for children with disabilities in Rwanda

January 25th, 2021 by

This year has been an especially challenging one for education around the world, but as we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities which falls on every 3rd December, we must acknowledge that in many places, the Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the barriers to learning faced by children with disabilities.

Radio broadcast lessons have provided a key means of education continuity during the period of school closures, but some children with disabilities have faced challenges in accessing these activities. As schools reopen, the UK Government funded Building Learning Foundations (BLF) programme is supporting the Rwanda Education Board to bridge this gap, focusing on ensuring that children with disabilities are returning to school and continuing their education.

As part of BLF’s work, 35 BLF Special Needs Education Coordinators (SNECOs) work with 476 targeted schools to improve the identification of children with disabilities, to promote inclusive teaching methodologies, and to add value to the work of school leadership and local authorities in their efforts to support inclusive education. A key role for SNECOs is to mentor Inclusive Education Focal Teachers (one teacher per school), to champion the education of children with disabilities in their schools.

Continued engagement with focal teachers and schools during lockdown and school closures has been vital in ensuring that children with disabilities continue to be supported – especially those who struggle to follow the remote radio learning programme. The SNECOs therefore adopted new approaches to ensure the continued mentoring, coaching and support for teachers of children with disabilities during the lockdown period. They also worked with schools to reach out to parents of children with disabilities, as one of our SNECOs, Jean D’Amour, explains:

“Before Covid-19, I used to visit schools face to face to mentor teachers on how to support SEN students. We had to adapt how we worked during lockdown as we could no longer meet in person. During lockdown, I was able to continue to support teachers, headteachers, and parents remotely. I was able to give very specific ideas to head teachers and Inclusive education focal teachers as we had already identified these children with learning difficulties and disabilities. I tried to find ways that inclusive education focal teachers could reach out to parents about ways they could help these students to follow the lessons taught through radio. However, I quickly realised that children with learning difficulties were struggling to learn. Some families didn’t have radios and televisions, or even electricity, and a big number of parents from rural areas were not able to support their children.”

The Ministry of Education has been assessing the situation for school reopening on a weekly basis. In mid-October, it was announced that schools would start a staggered reopening from 2 November, starting with older students, with children in lower primary returning in January 2021. BLF is at the forefront of the national ‘Back to School’ campaign and is working in partnership with the Ministry of Education to mobilise schools, parents, communities and children to make sure everyone starts school on time, including new Primary One pupils.

Getting children with disabilities back to school is more important than ever.  When children return, their learning will be assessed to see if they should be enrolled in catch-up lessons. Early results from the BLF assessment of access to learning during school closure shows that learners with disabilities were less likely to have done any learning during school closures than children without disability, meaning that many children with disabilities will need catch-up lessons – especially if they have never previously been to school.  BLF is therefore working with schools and communities to make sure there is a specific focus on those children at risk of not returning to school, including those with disabilities. Guidance is already being rolled out to schools and local authorities to help them identify and support these individuals.

This is a critical period for all learners in Rwanda, but especially learners with disabilities who already faced challenges in accessing education. We are delighted that BLF is rising to this challenge and helping to make sure that learners with disabilities are not left behind. 

BLF Digest #6 is out!

October 19th, 2020 by

Welcome to the BLF Digest Magazine issue #6. This issue focuses on women leading learning with support through the Building Learning Foundations programme. Read more.

BLF Digest issue #5

July 17th, 2020 by

Welcome to the 5th edition of the BLF Digest, our quarterly magazine that focuses on what we are doing to  improve learning outcomes in English and Mathematics at lower primary children in Rwanda. This is a special edition that focuses on Remote Learning. Follow the link to read more. BLF Digest Issue #5