Feature: Schools out for the summer
by Shamima Yasmine
Kamonyi District, Rwanda, August 2012: Ten year old Valence is full of smiles today, “we’ve finished our exams,” he beams “and this time I think I have done really well.” Valence attends Nykwiyasa Primary School, just outside Kigali, in Rwanda’s Kamonyi District, where after a few busy weeks of exams, the children are winding down and getting ready for the summer break.
School is coming to an end for this year, and judging by the smiles on the faces of Valence and his friends, it’s been a good year. “I have enjoyed school this year and geography lessons the most- it’s fun because I like learning about nature. I even enjoyed the exams a little. I think this time I will definitely come top of the class!” grins Valence, as his classmates break out in laughter and shouts to the contrary, “no it’s definitely me I’ve worked harder,” shouts Emmanuel who is 12 years old.
“The children have worked very hard this year,” says Head teacher Bonwube Niyonshuyi, “we have been very impressed with how attentive and enthusiastic they have been with their own learning and also how well they have supported each other,” he continues. “It has helped that this year we have been able to build nine additional classrooms to accommodate our growing number of students, previously the children were in dark classrooms with no windows and this was really damaging their concentration and their performance.”
Nykwiyasa Primary School is the only ‘child-friendly’ school in Kamonyi District, and is currently attended by 895 students from all over the district. Since adopting UNICEF child-friendly standards in 2010 the school has seen a huge improvement in school attendance, exam pass rates, children and parent participation as well as in the general well-being of students. This has been achieved by not only improving the physical infrastructure of the school so that children are now benefiting from airy, light classrooms, sports facilities, water points and separate latrines for boys and girls; but also by training teachers to adopt more child centred and interactive teaching methods which ensure that learning remains fun and promotes the physical, psycho-social and cognitive development of the child.
“The children are really enjoying having a playground with sports facilities, it is important for children to learn through play and this is encouraged by all the teachers here, we are even seeing that sports activities and participation in clubs are really improving children’s confidence and learning,” added Bonwube.
“I love to play basketball at school with my friends,” says Valence, “we don’t have balls or nets at home, so it is great to come to school and play,” he continues. “We’ll miss playing together over the break,” adds Emmanuel.
Rwanda has made impressive progress with its commitment to ensuring universal primary education and has one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in Africa, with 94.3 per cent of boys and 97.5 per cent of girls enrolled in primary school. UNICEF works with the Ministry of Education and its partners to ensure quality and equity in basic education through supporting schools to implement child-friendly standards.
At Nykwiyasa School, the plans are even more ambitious; this year the school has been able to offer places to children in secondary education for the first time, with 86 children enrolled at secondary level. “We hope to expand this next year so that even more children in secondary education can benefit from attending a child friendly school in this district,” continues Bonwube. “But for now I think it’s important for us all; children and teachers to get some rest and enjoy the summer break we’ve all worked very hard this year.”