School based mentors support English instruction in schools
By Arpana Pandey
February 2014 - “Can anyone tell me what the lady is doing in the picture?” The teacher asks his students as he points to a picture of a woman washing clothes. He repeats this exercise, holding up several rice bags with different images—a child reading a book, another eating porridge, and children playing football. The children respond with action verbs: washing, reading, eating, and playing.
The exercise is part of an English class taught to primary students at Gishari School in Rwamagana District. Evariste has taught action verbs before but until recently visual aids were largely absent from his teaching and he found it hard to engage children in the lesson. He now not only incorporates visual aids into his teaching, but also prepares and runs through lessons beforehand with the school based mentor assigned to Gishari, and his new approach is bearing fruit.
“I feel more confident. The mentor and I prepare the lessons together and he has shown me different ways of teaching grammar,” he states. Deogratis a science teacher adds, “The mentor showed me how to use local materials to create low-cost visual aids. Together we prepared one on the circulatory system. Having a visual aid makes it easier for me to explain the subject matter to the students.”
Since 2011, through UNICEF’s support, International Education Exchange (IEE), a Rwandan Education NGO, has deployed mentors on a full-time basis to targeted schools in the country as part of its School Based Teacher Training Program. Mentors work with approximately 4 or 5 teachers every day, supporting their continuous professional development, English language proficiency, class and lesson planning, and development of low-cost teaching aids using local materials. Mentors are deployed in schools for a period of 1 year after a rigorous recruitment process which includes oral, written and practical interviews. Thus far, the program has worked with around 1500 teachers in 48 basic education schools improving the quality of teaching and learning for approximately 70,000 children.
“The mentors have really helped the school with English. I can see the difference, and I feel like I am improving as well,” says a 12 year old boy from primary four.
“IEE’s School Based Teacher Training takes place in the school and responds to school culture and needs, while helping teachers grow professionally. Mentors are able to take teachers through effective teaching practices and follow up to see if those practices are implemented,” explains Emmanuel Murenzi, IEE’s Country Director.
The School Based Mentoring Program supports the Government of Rwanda’s work around improving language skills and instructional practices of teachers in basic education schools. In 2012, the government initiated the National School Based Mentoring program, which was informed by UNICEF’s work in partnership with IEE and since then UNICEF has supported the development of the national programme through its membership on the School Based Mentoring Task Force. Through training and support for teachers, the program aims to enhance student learning outcomes.