Strengthening the capacity of pre-primary practitioners in Rwanda
By Arpana Pandey and Frederik Leenknecht
Kigali — March 17, 2014 Fifty-five Sector Education Officers (SEOs), Inspectors, tutors from Teacher Training Colleges and civil society organizations were divided in two groups and began a week-long National Training on Play-Based Learning through the use of UNICEF Early Childhood Development (ECD) kits. The kit includes materials to develop cognitive, motor and socio-emotional skills of infants and young children between the ages of 0-6 years.
“Learning about the life cycle of the child from 0 - 6 was new to me. What children of a certain age do and what it means and to know how to react to that was very useful. Caregivers, but also parents should know that they have to give their children opportunities to grow and should give them enough care during the first three years,” expressed Frederic Uwishya, SEO of Rulindo District.
Organized by the Rwandan Education Board and (REB) and supported by UNICEF, the 2 weeks of training are part of the Ministry of Education's efforts to upgrade and strengthen existing pre-primary services in the country. The objective of the training is to create a pool of National Trainers who will roll-out similar trainings to caregivers and pre-primary practitioners in their own districts.
During the training, participants engaged actively in a variety of presentations and group work sessions while learning about concepts related to ECD, such as the life-cycle approach, the five development domains, play-based learning and school readiness.
“This training has taught me that play-based learning is very important in helping a child develop his/her cognitive and motor skills. Learning through play can help a child reach his or her full potential,” added Jean de la Paix Nkurunziza, Tutor at Teacher Training College Kirambo in Burera District.
The ECD Kit
Central to the training was the introduction to the content of the ECD kit and the usage of the materials with children for different age groups. The kit was presented as a model that could be replicated with local materials. On the second day of the training, participants drew on their creativity and imagination to replicate some of the toys using recyclable, local materials. With plenty of enthusiasm and laughter, they discovered the enormous potential of working with this ECD kit.
Another strong component of the training was the strengthening of the participants’ facilitation skills. Participants practiced a variety of techniques and presented on relevant ECD themes. Knowledge and experience on how to set up stimulating environments, how to create stories and books, how to implement the ECD kit and how to monitor and evaluate its proper use, were shared and commented upon.
The participants expressed their satisfaction with the training and are eager to proceed with the nation-wide roll-out. As Samson Mbonyi, a SEO from Rwamagana District puts it: “The training has given me the tools to be able to work with young children. I feel very happy to share the knowledge I got with the others.”
In the near future, all the participants will be training caregivers and practitioners from pre-primary schools in Rwanda on the basic ECD concepts and the sustainable and effective use of the ECD kit, which has been provided by UNICEF to all 1260 pre-primary schools – a cascade approach. School readiness programs, accompanied by expanded access to three years of learning of 4-6 year olds, are a priority in Rwanda as outlined in the latest Education Sector Strategic Plan 2013 – 18. UNICEF is supporting the Government of Rwanda’s efforts to increase access to pre-primary services through modeling physical infrastructure for the pre-primary schools and a package of services, which will be scaled up throughout the country as well as capacity building of caregivers and pre-primary professionals throughout Rwanda.
“These trainings will not stop after training the caregivers in the districts, we will also train the parents so they understand the importance of sending their children to the ECD. It will change the education system in our country.” - Evariste Hatangimana, SEO of Nyaruguru district.