The Wellspring Foundation for Education (Wellspring) was created in response to the clearly articulated vision of the Rwandan people who were seeking to rebuild their lives and their nation through quality, Christian values based education in the aftermath of the tragedy of 1994. It is Rwandan vision, Rwandan passion, Rwandan experience and insight that has driven our work in this country for nearly a decade. There have been a few people from the International community who have had the privilege of coming alongside this Rwandan vision, but our organization really is a wellspring that has bubbled up from amongst the beautiful green hills of this country.
Many people in Rwanda and North America know about us for our past work in supporting the creation and development of the Wellspring Academy since it was the first project we supported in Rwanda. The Wellspring Academy is the fruit of a partnership between the Wellspring Foundation for Education and Christian Life Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda. This non profit, interdenominational Christian school is a growing success story and is governed and operated by an autonomous board of directors. Having created the physical space in which the school can thrive, our role as an organization is now to cheer them on, providing technical support in the background as invited to by the school’s leadership. For more on the school check out www.wellspringacademy.org
Over the past 9 years we have also been heavily involved in in-service teacher training, school leadership training and fostering community involvement in education. Our history of growing investment in this domain has led us to our signature program, the School Development Program currently being implemented in 48 rural and urban schools throughout Gasabo District.
The School Development Program learning and service began with the voluntary work of Mrs. Yvonne Dyer, whose design and pilot of “Quality Education: A Way of Thinking” in Bangladesh in the early 2000’s provided the backbone for teacher training that we hoped could be successfully adapted for Rwanda. Our rationale for starting our work in teacher training was quite simple: It is teachers who are responsible for delivering formal education and they are the primary assets for any education system. Teachers in the classroom are educational culture carriers, and they must be adequately trained to discover why they are teaching, what they need to be teaching, and how they are able to teach within their given circumstances.
As we began our endeavors in teacher training in 2004 there were many voices pointing out the need to increase material supplies, infrastructure, and teacher salaries and reduce teacher student ratios (all of which we agreed would be desirable and helpful). Nonetheless we recognized that the Government of Rwanda was already investing heavily into education as a percentage of its means and yet the gap in material and financial resources for the education sector was still enormous. Our premise was that since educators are such a tremendous asset, given the right kind of input and support teachers in the same material circumstances could perform to a much superior level and deliver a good quality of basic education despite the material conditions. Our pilot phase in 3 schools with 30 teachers ending in 2006 pointed to the success of the approach, but also the need to work to a greater extent on the issues of school leadership, personal healing of educators, and systemic support for a quality education. Please see the Quality Education Final report from our pilot phase in Rwanda. (Download the QE Report 2007)
Based on the learning from the pilot phase, and following dialogue with the Ministry of Education, Wellspring undertook to complement the teacher training program with additional leadership and community involvement training. Through this the first phase of the Whole School Development Program was implemented working in 7 schools (both urban and rural) spread in three of Rwanda’s thirty Districts. Positive impact was achieved through the program (Download the WSDP Report 2010) and yet more learning about the need to develop stronger systemic support for sustained school improvement.
Therefore once again in dialogue with the Ministry of Education and our partners in local Government, Wellspring committed to a dramatically scaled up version of the School Development Program, working with 40 schools in Gasabo District throughout 2011 and into 2012. Our distinct hope was that systemic change could be motivated by modeling not just school improvement, but sustained school improvement on a nationally visible scale. This required working with all of the stakeholders throughout one of Rwanda’s 30 local Districts. Starting at the end of 2012 we began an “upward spiral” of training for these 40 schools plus an additional 8 that no longer had other NGO support or input in teacher training, bringing our total number of partner schools up to 48. We hope to support Gasabo District to become Rwanda’s top performing District in basic education by 2017 by investing into the people who make education happen.