At Wellspring Foundation, quality education and students’ learning achievement are not just fancy and sweet terms. They are not just “good things to have”. They are non-negotiable rights all children should be given regardless of their socio-economic reality, gender, and family backgrounds.
This driving principle is well reflected in Wellspring’s current investment in Rubavu district, in response to the district’s request for support in its efforts to overcome barriers to equitable and quality education in its 75 schools.
As one of Rwanda districts bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rubavu is a strategic district with a great potential to significantly impact the national socio-economic development. This is one of the main reasons why the district’s leadership embarked on a partnership with the Wellspring Foundation for Education in order to overcome obstacles and roadblocks standing in the way of values-based equitable quality education in schools. Some of these roadblocks include (i) an alarming lack of substantial learner-centred approaches turning students’ learning achievement into an unachievable objective, (ii) school drop-outs resulting from poor students’ behaviour management by unskilled teachers, (iii) gender-based inequities and disparities, and (iv) ineffective school leadership practices.
In response to these issues, the Wellspring’s team of trainers in Rubavu is striving to empower local government education officers, school leaders, teachers, and parents through its threefold approach known as the School Development Program (SDP). The same programme has been successfully implemented in 50 public schools in Gasabo for the last decade.
But how does this work practically?
First, educational leaders are empowered to help them be equipped and skilled in order to take care of teachers, to support them and to accurately assess how they are doing in classrooms. School leaders in particular are trained to foster a real child-friendly environment in their schools…
Second, Teachers are offered high quality support and mentorship required to help students learn instead of memorizing content. Teachers are empowered so that they can students use the acquired numeracy and literacy skills to become problem solvers and to grow in their critical thinking…
Third, Parents are encouraged to be engaged in school matters. Wellspring patiently and diligently helps them understand that investing in their children’s education is the most rewarding thing they should do. Furthermore, parents are helped to grow in their awareness of the benefits of collaborating with the school management through mutual accountability.
Can this really happen? “Yes, it can” answers Gilbert Bisengo, who is leading the team implementing the SDP in Rubavu.
“Most of the schools in Rubavu are located in rural areas and are known to have overcrowded classrooms. They are struggling to succeed despite their limited resources and substandard infrastructure. They are also hardly accessible and, in many cases, reaching them may require a half-day walk-hike. Yet those children are our greatest assets. They are our future. So as long as there are schools and children out there, we will reach out to them. We will use our experience, skills and resources to bring them hope and to make sure they are given their inalienable rights to free, equitable and quality education. We will make sure that those children can learn, read and write and that they become competent and skilled citizens who will contribute to the development of our Country. We do this because all children matter” Gilbert said.