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Active teaching in Rwanda

Petra Van Der Spek is a Methodology and Resource advisor at a Teacher Trainer College in Muramba

Petra Van Der Spek, Methodology and Resource advisor at a Teacher Trainer College in Muramba

What do you like about Rwanda?

6 months after my arrival in Rwanda I told my family and friends that I had fallen in love. In love with Rwanda. It is such a beautiful, green & luscious country.

Breathtaking scenery waits to be discovered at every corner. The thousands and thousands of hills, the flora and the people are what truly make you fall in love with Rwanda.

I’ve always been amazed at how positive Rwandans are considering their history. The country I discovered was such a far cry from our preconceived western perception of “dangerous Rwanda”.

Rwanda is a very safe country inhabited by very helpful and curious people who are eager to learn. Incidents may happen every once in a while but there are not more frequent or any more different from what can place in Europe. It is very easy and safe to travel around (even as a lone female).

Besides the beautiful scenery, Rwanda also has amazing wildlife. The mountain gorillas are a ‘must see.’ They are very unique as they can only be found at the Rwandan/Ugandan border and Rwandan/D.R. C Congo border. This visit is not cheap, however once on a resident visa; one is entitled to only pay half price.  I still have a huge smile on my face every time I think of how amazing the experience was.

I also highly recommend the Nyungwe forest in the south of the country where you can go on beautiful walks revealing more monkeys, chimps and jaw-dropping scenery.

What challenges have you faced in Rwanda?          

One of the key challenges I experienced was the language. In rural areas people mostly speak Kinyarwanda and a little bit of English or French.

I had to take Kinyarwanda lessons for at least 6 months and learnt to also rely on the use of body language (gestures & laughter etc.) to communicate with rural community members.  

Colleagues at school (local school staff) spoke very good English, although some found it hard to have the confidence to speak.

By fostering friendships, we were able to improve our language skills. They helped me practice my Kinyarwanda, while I helped them with their English.

What kind of work are you doing?

I was a Methodology and Resources Advisor in two Teacher training Colleges (TTC). I worked with tutors from the Foundation to implement active teaching methods or learner-centered methods to improve learning outcomes at primary level.

Up until a few years ago teachers and tutors where only teaching through the chalk-and-talk method. A one-way teaching approach whereby teachers transferred information to students who wrote them down.

Through training, workshops, coaching, peer-to-peer sessions, observations and more, we were able to give teachers the opportunity to get familiar with active teaching methods.

Active teaching allows pupils and students to talk and work in small groups, play games, give presentations and practice lessons learnt through real life experience simulations. To support active learning, we helped teachers learn how to develop exciting and engaging teaching from locally available material that are low or no cost.

Aside from being a volunteer, I was also leading the volunteering committee, which entailed organizing meetings and organsing social events.

Would you recommend Rwanda to other volunteers?

I would recommend volunteering with VSO Rwanda because everyone is motivated by a deep, genuine desire to improve the living conditions of the poorest Rwandans.

Interested in volunteering?

Find out more about professional volunteering

Find out more about volunteering in Rwanda