When everything changed

How one teacher mentor in Rwanda is helping make learning more fun

By Yonah Nyundo and Veronica Houser
15 August 2019

NGOMA, Rwanda - The school yard bustles as students hurry back to class. The mid-morning break is almost over, and 19-year-old Christian Nsengiyumva is one of the first to be found sitting attentively at his desk. He sits proudly in his bright blue uniform, waiting for class to resume.

“The curriculum changed when I was in Senior 3,” recalls Christian. “It used to be very boring; the teachers just talked the entire day, and we did not have any activities.”

Christian Nsengiyumva stands in the school yard during morning break at his school in Rwanda.
UNICEF/UN0283123/Rudakubana
Christian Nsengiyumva stands in the school yard during morning break.

Christian is in Senior 6 now, his last year of secondary school before he graduates. He has been studying under Rwanda’s new competency-based curriculum for three years, and he feels the difference is palpable.

“When the teachers started working with Vedaste, everything changed,” he says.

“Vedaste helps the teachers interact with each other in groups, practicing activities as if they are the students. They pass these activities on to our classroom, and now we have a lot to do!”

Vedaste Muziramacyenga, a teacher-mentor in Rwanda's Zaza Sector, coaches his fellow teachers on developing student-centred classroom activities.
UNICEF/UN0283109/Rudakubana
Vedaste Muziramacyenga, a teacher-mentor in Rwanda's Zaza Sector, coaches his fellow teachers on developing student-centred classroom activities.

Vedaste is one of over 830 mentor trainers in Rwanda, working in Christian’s school to train fellow teachers as part of the national School-Based Mentorship Programme. Since 2012, UNICEF has supported this programme to help improve teacher’s teaching and planning skills.

With funding support from the Swiss Committee for UNICEF, mentors receive continuous professional development training to better teach to the new competency-based curriculum. Launched in 2016, this new curriculum focuses on individual learning plans and encouraging more interactive classroom activities.

Exceptional teachers like Vedaste now serve as mentors in their community’s schools, tasked with training their peers on improved lesson plans and better instruction techniques.

Vedaste coaches teachers during a continuous professional development session on designing student-centred activities for Rwandan students.
UNICEF/UN0283129/Rudakubana
Vedaste coaches teachers during a continuous professional development session on designing student-centred activities for Rwandan students.

With more room to explore and think creatively in the classroom, students like Christian are also encouraged to consider topics that take them outside the boundaries of their school campus.

“I think I will become a policeman after I graduate,” says Christian. “I would like to contribute to the well-being of my community.”