My name is Georgine MUKARUGIRA, Headteacher at G.S. St Paul Muko, in Rusizi District, Western Rwanda. I have been the headteacher of this school since 2015. It’s a 12 years basic education, government aided school, owned by the Catholic church. St Paul Muko is a large school with 3,012 students, 48 teachers and 3 administrative staff. My school is one of the best performing schools in the district.
I am passionate about Education and I try my best to keep improving the quality of teaching and learning in my school. In 2018, I got the opportunity of being selected as a National Leader of Learning (NLL) by the Building Learning Foundations programme (BLF). My learning journey with the support of BLF has been an incredible one. Through the CPD Certificate in Leadership for Learning course, I have learned about effective school leadership, particularly how to set school direction, lead teaching and learning, and involve parents.
I have understood the importance of working collaboratively with all stakeholders, which is crucial when developing a large school like mine. The introduction of Communities of Practice (CoP) meetings in lower primary has generated a sense of collective responsibility amongst English and mathematics teachers and other members of the school community. Every term, I work together with the teachers, the School Bursar and the Director of Studies to plan for the monthly CoP meetings. This includes designating time for the meetings, delivering training for teachers on reading skills and the use of the dictionary, encouraging them to read the toolkit units and giving support when they face any challenges. It is my responsibility to make sure fruitful discussions and exchange of ideas takes place during every CoP meeting in relation each of the toolkit units studied that month.
CoPs have helped me, my teachers and students to increase the use of English in school, to be more active and to innovate, feeling confident in preparing and developing our own teaching aids and materials. Teachers do not complain anymore about lack of teaching resources ever since they were given the skills to create their own. From the regular visits to the classroom I conduct with the Director of Studies, I have noticed that students are working independently or in small groups and are more responsive. Communication among teachers and students has greatly improved as teachers do more of the listening and engage students. Students are highly motivated and interested in manipulating the teaching aids, they are eager to acquire new knowledge and as a result drop out has decreased. In addition, the success rate in lower primary in English has increased from 44.7% in 2017 to 57.7% in 2019.
I am now a role model. For instance, I now use English to speak to all my teachers in school during meetings and school activities. I encourage them to also speak to me and to each other in English because the more practice we make, the better our language proficiency becomes. Students try to practice their English during play time. Every week, I participate in the school’s English Club activities. It is a platform for students to develop their speaking and listening skills through songs and poems. It is also an opportunity for teachers and students to meet and discuss education related issues, especially about the role education plays in the development of our country.
All these initiatives have made our school one of the most successful schools in the area. All parents want to bring their children to our school. Our School General Assembly Committee (SGAC) members also recognise our achievements and have noticed the changes since the introduction of CoPs. Its members share with parents the information on what is being done differently in the school and it is recognised that children perform better in Mathematics and English. Our results have also been acknowledged by our Sector Education Officer, who regularly participates in the school activities and is very supportive of our work.
As an NLL supporting District level Professional Learning Communities, I have been happy to share my school’s best practice in relation to how well CoPs can be organised. I have been encouraging colleagues in Rusizi district to develop their own ideas based on my experience and with my support. I believe BLF is giving headteachers of Rwanda the opportunity to become successful leaders of learning aiming at improving the quality of English and Mathematics in P1-P3 in Rwandan primary schools. I am looking forward to completing the first year of my CPD Diploma course, which has given me the leadership tools and strategies I need to continue strengthening teaching and learning in my school.