“To see the people I train being helpful in society, then I know I did a good job.” That’s what Nizeyimana Jean, a teacher at the Teacher Training College in Bicumbi, told us when we asked him what makes him most satisfied about his job. Nizeyimana went on to explain that he likes to know that the work that he does helps his students to have a happy and fulfilling life.
The teacher training college (TTC) in Bicumbi is in the Rwamagana region in Rwanda, a mountainous area approximately two hours’ drive from the capital, Kigali. The surrounding countryside is so lush and green at the moment because the rainy season has just started.
We soon left the tarmac roads of the capital to head up the clay dirt roads to make our way to the TTC. We passed many small villages with small brick shops on either side of the road, and lots of bicycles transporting mini bananas from rural plantations.
On arriving at the residential TTC we met Celestin Bakinga, Principal of TTC Bicumbi, and Tutor Nizeyimana, who introduced us to the work that he does to educate the next generation of 564 primary school teachers in training. He showed us how the student teachers gather equipment from their daily lives to use as teaching resources in schools.
This includes everything from plastic bottles, to educate on liquid volumes, to rice sacks, for depicting the letters of the alphabet or anatomical images, and banana fibre baskets for local cultural education awareness. The college needs to teachthe students how to be self-sufficient so that they can sustain their teaching practices without needing extra funding.
We also spoke to some of the student teachers, a group aged between 16 and 25 years, about what their hopes were for their futures and what their favourite subjects were. The answers were humbling and inspirational:
“I hope that the knowledge, skills and values I get from here will help me to share with others in the next generation.”
“I love to study history; you must know where you come from to know where you are going to.”
The work that we saw at the TTC this afternoon helped to consolidate what we saw at the Child Friendly School of Kanyinya, which we visited in the morning. The school supports 1,712 students, aged from four to 18, through their education. We got to observe two pre-primary classes whose adorable members are aged five to six (they start primary 1 at six here!) The focus was on learning through play (singing, counting and exercise) and we saw many rice sack drawings and homemade props!
We then got to see their Reading Room. Inside this special room some of the reading and learning materials were funded by our very own Soft Toys for Education campaign.
The children spend 40 minutes practising sounding out their letters and reading stories, to support their development in reading. Ezra, one of 34 UNICEF-supported school-based mentors, also explained how the school is working to ensure quality in teaching standards in Rwandan education, as this remains one of their biggest challenges. We then donated some inflatable world globes and some tennis balls to promote play with the children!
Contrary to some of our expectations, and despite all Rwanda’s history and challenges, today has been an inspirational and uplifting day. We are feeling so proud to work for IKEA, and felt that our values were really alive in the schools. They make more from less, their simplicity is a virtue and they are definitely “on the way”!