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.

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.

A really big book! By Yvonne Mukanyatanyi

June 24th, 2019 by

Teacher Yvonne attending Students in classroom

My name is Yvonne Mukanyatanyi, a P1 – P3 English teacher at Ecole Primaire Kivomo in Muhanga sector, Muhanga District. I have been an English teacher for two years now. I have been involved with the Building Learning Foundations programme since 2018. Using the English toolkit book, audio and video is helping me and my colleagues to improve our English teaching practice. I was also involved in filming for the second toolkit and the pilot for the English Pupil activity books. It was a very exciting session for me, given the fact that it was the very first time I was involved in such an activity, and the pupils really liked the activities!

When I went through the first toolkit orientation, I was a newcomer to teaching.  We underwent our orientation in April 2018 and I enjoyed it. There was a lot to understand in just one day. But when I saw the English book, I thought it was a really big book and I was worried that it was so difficult that I could not do it all. After the orientation on how to use the toolkits, I knew that it was important for me to do some self-study. I knew the toolkit was something that would help improve my teaching, so I read one unit a month. I did not have to work alone because, in our school, we have Community of Practice (CoP) meetings. I could read by myself first and then in the CoP meeting I discussed with my colleagues; we practised units together and it really encouraged me given my poor language proficiency.

I listened to the audios and found ideas of how to teach with simple vocabulary that would assist the learners, and also it helped me with my English pronunciation.


All the units in the English book are important for teaching English, but my favourite unit is about encouraging and praising children. I am a P1 to P3 teacher so it is important to praise young children. Before BLF I didn’t know so much about praising children. Now, I have some ideas for making them try hard and for encouraging them, even when they get things wrong. It makes the children learn well and they are happy.


Some of my class pupils were involved in the filming for the English book toolkit two. I was very proud to be chosen to participate in the filming. BLF’s Sector Learning Facilitator (SLF), had been to my school and observed some of my lessons. He noticed that my English was quite good, and he knew that I was using the BLF English toolkit book and it was helping me improve my English language and classroom teaching. I was using pair work and group work and I was trying to speak a lot of English in my lessons. I enjoy motivating learners, so I was not really nervous about the filming. I am not only here for teaching, I like to do other things and I want to help other teachers to develop, too.


I am looking forward to the next toolkit orientation. I’ve seen and piloted the English pupil books; they are beautiful and very helpful for pupils. They have coloured pictures and they match the topics from the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC). The vocabulary is at the right level for the pupils. It will be nice when we have these books.


I am very happy working with BLF and I think it has helped my teaching a lot. The BLF programme is equipping me to make my English lessons very interesting and make pupils love the English language. I am optimistic that with the tools availed to teachers of English, we will in a very short time improve the learning outcomes of our pupils at P1 to P3.

BLF helped me become a proactive teacher, By Christian Shema

June 24th, 2019 by

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.