articles, opinions, and research about teaching and learning

Teachers Forum
May, 2001

Street-based Children
in Kigali, Rwanda

two interviews conducted by
Emmanuelle Abrioux

Innocent Hamnigisha

Tubakunde Centre, located in one of the most populated areas of the capital city Kigali, offers support to over 200 street-based children. The Centre provides a variety of programmes for children and youth including basic education, professional training, health care and recreational activities. In addition, the Centre strives to reunify children with their families where possible or to place them in foster families should they be orphaned. A study initiated by UNICEF in 1998 noted an estimated 6,000 street-based children living in Kigali. This number has significantly increased as a growing number of families are struggling to provide the basic necessities for their children.

One of the pressing needs for these children and youth is to ensure access to a relevant, basic education. 59% of street-based children in Rwanda have dropped out of school and a further 23% were never registered for primary schooling. (The Children’s Voices : Street Children in Rwanda, UNICEF, Trocaire, Ministry of Youth, Culture and Professional Training, 1998)

The following are two interviews conducted with Mr. Papias Rutazigwa, the Education Supervisor, and Mr. Innocent Hamuigisha, a vocational teacher.

Interview with Mr. Papias Rutazigwa

Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and the children that you teach

Basic Education Class - 1st Grade Answer: I have been working at the Tubakunde Centre since it first opened in 1998. I am the Prefect of Studies at the Centre. This means that I am responsible for supervising the work of all the basic education teachers and the vocational teachers. I go to the different classes to see if the teachers are correctly following their programmes and to evaluate if the students are learning. Sometimes I also have to replace a teacher if they are sick or unable to come to work.

The children who come to the centre live in the streets and participate in classes to learn elementary notions of French, hygiene and mathematics. The students are between 10 and 17 years old. These preliminary notions encourage the student to reintegrate school and learn to readapt to a learning schedule.

Q: Is there a difference between the children at the Centre and those in Primary Schools?

A: There is a very big difference because the children who live in the streets have ingrained habits which discourage them from concentrating for longer periods or sitting still in a classroom. Children who attend primary schools and who are able to go home in the evenings are able to learn from family members and are encouraged, but for street children it is very difficult.

It is difficult for many of the street children to concentrate on their work as they arrive already tired to the class. When the children come to the classroom they fall asleep as they were unable to sleep the night before or were up most of the night sniffing glue. Also many of them are traumatised from the violence in the streets. Sometimes there are discussions during the class when children explain that the night before they were hit by security guards or others in the streets.

The type of education which we give in this centre is not the same as that given in the ‘normal’ primary schools - we provide the preliminary notions. Our literacy classes help the children develop their expression skills.

Q: What methodologies do you use to teach the children and youth?

A: The emphasis in our classes is on the participation of all the children. I encourage the teachers to use tools such as question and answering, open ended discussions and guiding questions. If I were to impose only my way of thinking or a one way dialogue with the children, I would not be able to understand what they really think or want to learn.

I have also emphasized that the children learn through examples that are relevant to their needs. For example in counting, we look at ‘costing’ which youth need to learn how to do to estimate their costs and still make a profit from the work they are doing.

Q: In your opinion what makes a good teacher?

A: A good teacher is one who genuinely likes children and wants to share his ideas with them. It is also important that a good teacher recognise that he can not teach things that he doesn’t know.

An Interview with Mr. Innocent Hamuigisha

Q: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and the children you teach?

Vocational Training: Sign Painting A: I work at the Tubakunde Centre as the Arts Teacher in the vocational training programme. I have been teaching here for just over one year and am responsible for teaching street children and youth professional drawing and sign-writing. I teach one class and have a total of 27 students. The street children who are coming to the classes want to learn skills to help them get a permanent job.

Before working here I studied at the Arts College for 6 years and then taught in Bycumbi and Kackiru Primary Schools. I have also taught at the secondary school of La Promise although only for 6 months. Also during that time I was a refugee in Congo and when I came back I found out that the Centre was looking for a professional artist.

Q: What methodologies do you use in your teaching?

A: At the beginning I developed a course which would start with the basic skills and then added on to the work of the children every month. It was difficult to know what type of arts training would be the most useful, so after careful thought I decided it would be most beneficial for them to learn skills which will help them work in printing houses.Vocational Training: Sign Painting I contacted some of the printing houses in Kigali and they agreed to have the youth do a 6 month apprenticeship programme in their companies after the training at the centre. This way the students learn in the classroom but also have more practical experiences. We hope that several youth will be hired by the companies or will be able to seek employment in others.

At the present time it is not too difficult for the youth to find work, however, it is true that the youth who are not interested in producing samples and pushing sales find it difficult. That is why it is so important to train the children in the skills needed to work within the printing companies as working as individual contractors does not result in having a permanent job.

Q: In your opinion what is a good teacher?

A: You can tell if a teacher is good because the students want to stay with the same teacher. A good teacher works closely with the students to improve their skills and confidence bit by bit. I also think that a good teacher will notice the changes in the students - both in the results from exams and also behaviour in the classroom.

Would you like to read other interviews with practising teachers?

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Last revised May 1, 2001
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