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Although nearly all Rwandan children are enrolled in primary school, many leave without reaching a decent level of functional literacy and numeracy. The Building Learning Foundations programme is working to improve education for all, ensuring no child is left behind.

Most Rwandan classrooms are basic, with only a chalkboard at the front, rows of wooden desks, and limited teaching and learning resources. Many teachers are unqualified, and are often faced with large classes – sometimes with up to 60 pupils – making it difficult for them to engage every child.

Through the Building Learning Foundations (BLF) programme, we are working with schools, teacher training colleges and the Rwandan Government to overcome these challenges and improve the quality of primary and pre-primary education across the country.

As a key component of the DFID Rwanda Learning for All programme, BLF is ambitious in its scale and aims.  As part of a consortium led by the Education Development Trust, we will reach 2.6 million children by 2020, by engaging with every government-funded primary school in the country.

A whole-system approach

The programme is built on three complementary and interlinked foundations, ensuring its impact will be sustainable long after 2020:

  • teacher development,
  • leadership for learning,
  • strengthening systems.

Embedded within each of the three components are the key principles of inclusivity and child-centred learning.

Leaving no child behind

Two boys sit and work at their desk in a busy classroom in their school for children with disabilities in Nyamasheke, Rwanda VSO/Mussa Uwitonze

Two boys study in their school in Nyamasheke, western Rwanda. 

We’re already impacting children in even the most remote and hard-to-reach regions of Rwanda, where teachers and school leaders are benefiting from regular mentoring and professional development.

We’re prioritising the needs of children who are most often left behind – those with disabilities, learning difficulties, or other factors which make accessing education challenging. Our interventions are informed by a Disability Assessment based on the Washington Group questions, the UN’s standard for identifying people living with disabilities, ensuring that inclusivity remains at the heart of the programme.

Our expert volunteers have developed an inclusive education guide for teachers, equipping them with the tools and understanding they need to identify and meet the needs of children with disabilities or special educational needs. English and Maths toolkits help enable inclusive thinking and action to become part of teachers’ daily practice.

Investing in teachers

By training teachers and mentoring school leaders, we’re investing in the people who can make a real and long-lasting impact.

Teams of national volunteers, mentored by international volunteer teaching advisors, have trained 25,000 foundational English and maths teachers. Volunteer school leadership advisors have trained 476 of Rwanda’s best-performing headteachers, who are now supporting all primary heads across the country. 

Developing low-cost, sustainable classroom resources

A group of young children carry teaching materials as they walk outside, led by their teacher Alice Kayibanda

Teacher Josephine Nyirampuhwe's young pupils help her carry recycled learning materials.

To overcome the inherent challenges posed by a lack of physical resources, an important strand of the programme is the development of low-cost, easy to make teaching materials. Volunteers are showing teachers how to create their own resources, using items readily found in the community – such as rice sacks and bottle tops. 

Mentored by a volunteer education specialist from the UK, national volunteers visit schools and spend a day there, identifying teachers’ specific needs and learning objectives. They can then share ideas of how to use everyday objects in a creative way, empowering teachers to develop their own engaging materials and exercises.