Working to improve learning outcomes in English and Mathematics for 4.2 million children in Rwanda
My teaching experience in a strange environment

My name is Josiane Ingabire. I am a Mathematics teacher at GS Remera Catholique School where I teach P2 and P3 pupils. I have been in the teaching profession for 10 years now. I was involved with BLF for the first time in the pilot phase when I got involved in trying out some activities from a sample unit from the mathematics toolkit in 2018. It was a great learning experience for me.   

As soon as the COVID-19 lockdown began in Rwanda in late March 2020 and all schools closed, I was worried about my learners and how I would continue supporting them to learn. By chance, I was approached by the Building Learning Foundations programme – they asked me to volunteer to teach children via radio. I was very happy and immediately agreed. However, since it was my first time  producing a radio lesson, I was nervous when I recorded my first lesson. It was very a strange environment, having no classroom and no pupils. Just an empty room with computers and microphones, seen for the first time in my life. Scripts were developed by the BLF technical team and then recorded from the national radio studio every week.   

Interactive lessons delivery 

The art of teaching by radio is very tricky. You need to engage your learners from a distance. I record one lesson per grade per week which is broadcast on 7 radio stations in Rwanda. Weekly schedules are shared through radio advertisements, social media and through BLF local staff. 

The BLF team ensures that the lessons are interactive when designing them. When I am recording, I ask pupils to follow instructions and engage them in responding to them. They also do activities during breaks provided in the lessons. 

Depending on the lesson of the day, I also encourage them to have low cost learning materials available ahead of time, these include counting stones, bottle tops with or without numbers, flash cards and much more. I end every lesson by mentioning materials the learner will need for the next lesson. During the lessons, parents/siblings and caregivers are encouraged to join in and support pupils in activities.   

I would like to encourage parents, siblings or caregivers who support children at home to help the children to listen to the instructions given during each lesson. For example, when I say, “now it is time for you pick up your counting stones and place them on the table or the ground” here parents or caregivers can verify whether the children have the counting stones or sticks ready. I want to encourage parents e to always support their children. The support does not require you to know how to read or write. For example, you can check if the child is doing what the radio teacher asked them to do. Check if they are writing or counting or reading numbers on flash cards as per the radio teacher instructions. Some activities also require the children to tell their parents/siblings the answers or just to discuss something with them. 

Using my time creatively at home 

Usually during the rest of the week when I am not recording lessons, I make the  time to create learning materials that I will use in my class when schools reopen.I also help my own children to learn and follow the radio lessons. BLF staff call me weekly to find out if I am doing self-study and sometimes, they help me online when I have challenges navigating the toolkit. 

I would like to encourage my colleagues to use their time very well at home by doing self-study as it improves our teaching skills. The lockdown and school closure should not prevent us from continuing to learn. It is an opportunity to upskill ourselves with the help of BLF staff who are in touch with us constantly. I thank BLF for training me to be a good teacher and for giving me the opportunity to support learners during the COVID-19 lockdown period.  

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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