In 2017, VVOB started a programme Leading, Teaching and Learning Together (LTLT)—Umusemburo w’Ireme ry’Uburezi in six districts and later extended to 14 additional districts with an overlap of three districts. LTLT is designed to improve educational services for school leaders and teachers to support them in the implementation of the competence-based curriculum.
One of the goals of this programme is to equip school-based mentors, teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and sector education officers with coaching skills to support teachers and school leaders in their professional development. In this regard, VVOB organised a training for 52 trainers from the University of Rwanda College of Education (UR-CE) and other colleges, from 3 to 6 September. Mss Bert Massa and Hilde Geuens, two lecturers from University College Leuven-Limburg (UCLL), a Belgian university facilitated the 3-day training in Kigali, along with Ms Anouk Vanelderen, an intern from UCLL and Michelle Venneman, Education Advisor at VVOB.
Dr Rutazuyaza Vaillant Byizigiro is one of the UR-CE lecturers who attended the training. He said he gained knowledge and skills that will enable mentor teachers to fulfil their responsibilities.
“We went through different steps that clearly show how mentor teachers can effectively coach their colleagues. For instance, a mentor can help his colleagues to realise and understand the challenges and issues they face, through asking them questions, then facilitate them to identify possible options for solutions”, Dr Rutazuyaza said.
The responsibilities of a mentor teacher include organising professional development activities as needed and support teachers in improving their pedagogy for competence-based teaching and learning.
Students as the final target
“We believe that a coaching process makes teachers understand that students are the centre for teaching and learning, hence changing their attitudes and practices towards learners. They will stimulate self-confidence among students, encouraging them to come out of their comfort zone—realising their potential in finding solutions to challenges instead of always relying on their teachers. This way, students will explore many options in their everyday life even after completing their studies”, Dr Rutazuyaza.
As for Ms Aloysie Uwizeye, also a lecturer at UR-CE, a trainer should be well versed before imparting knowledge.
“The training improved my understanding about mentoring and coaching. During our previous training with mentor teachers, the major challenge was that mentors lacked coaching skills to support teachers. They didn’t know they also have ability to find solutions to teaching/learning issues they face. For any issue, they would think that someone else has a solution. In this training we discussed different approaches which I will share with them, such as observation, conversations, active listening, asking questions, as a strategy to help someone understand his own situation to identify a solution. I believe I will help them to change their mindset and, in the end, this will benefit the students in general”, Ms Uwizeye said.
Trainers need to train themselves
According to Ms Massa, one of two training facilitators from UCLL, this training is only the foundation for mentoring and coaching.
“It is not enough, the trainers (university lecturers) need to be self-confident, train themselves for their own growth to become good coaches. Believing in one’s capacity, understanding that people have the capacity to change things can improve the whole teaching and learning process. We believe the trainers will keep updating their knowledge”, she said.
For Ms Hilde Geuens, the training will first impact the participants who are supposed to transfer the knowledge to school-based mentors in primary and secondary education.
“Some lecturers admitted that they used to advise students and provide answers, ignoring the fact that the students have solutions. After the training, the same lectures testified that they understood the role of a teacher in a broader perspective. They now believe in the power and strength of the students and have understood that the teacher’s role is to unveil the answer which the students have in themselves”, Ms Geuns said.
Mss Bert Massa and Hilde Geuens also visited G.S.Rosa Mystica-Inclusive School in Kamomyi District, Southern Rwanda to learn how the school deals with inclusion. The school has over 800 students in nursery, primary and secondary education, including 65 students with disabilities.
“Inclusive education is today’s discussion even in Belgium. We want to learn from Rwanda how they handle children with disabilities in large classes. We were impressed by the way children with disabilities interact with others, how children help each other. If inclusive education is possible with less resources in this school, it can also be possible with enough resources in Belgium”, said Ms Massa.
LTLT is being implemented in more than 1,200 schools in 17 districts in primary and secondary education, in close collaboration with Rwanda Education Board and the UR-CE. It consists of the diploma programme in Effective School Leadership and certificate programmes in Educational Mentorship and Coaching for school-based mentors, sector education officers and STEM teachers