A group of 12 Rollins students, professors, and alumni recently completed a field study in a small village in eastern Rwanda—a spot where 1,200 Tutsis died during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The group worked with teachers in the tiny village of Musha to explore ways to teach English and incorporate technology. Photos by Scott Cook.
At Hameau des Jeanues orphanage, Professor of Communication Susan Easton and Danielle Loyd ’13 read books that they brought with them with the children staying at the orphanage. Before the trip, the Rollins group raised money to bring more than 600 pounds worth of books, puzzles, and games with them to Musha, Rwanda.
Musha is located near Lake Muhazi (pictured here) in the Eastern province of Rwanda, about 25 miles east of Kigali.
The school they worked with, Duha Complex School, teaches the equivalent of kindergarten through 12th grade. Founded in 2008, the nonprofit Rwanda Education Assistance Project (REAP) began working with the Duha Complex School in 2009. Working alongside them, Associate Professor of Education Scott Hewit has traveled to Rwanda every summer since 2010, spearheading the Rollins Laptop Legacy Program to bring computers to Duha.
Hewit watches the video 5 Little Ducks while working on a lesson plan to show teachers at the Duha Complex School fun ways to teach English while incorporating technology and music. This past June, Hewit led a group of Rollins students, alumni, faculty, and staff to Duha to partner with REAP on working with teachers, parents, students, and members of the community to develop a model for rural education in Rwanda.
Holt elementary education graduate student Shakeela Prosper and Hillary Urquhart '15 observe a teacher in P1 (the equivalent of first grade), who is using an audiobox that is connected to cell phone to teach English and Kinyarwanda (their native language). During their three weeks in the village, Rollins students observed the classes, demonstrated new techniques, and then partnered with the instructors to co-teach.
Connected to a cellphone, the audiobox amplifies language lessons that are provided by the government.
Urquhart and Selia Aponte ’16 demonstrate how to integrate what’s happening on the taped lesson plan with classroom activities. English was declared Rwanda’s official national language in 2008, and some teachers in lower level grades don’t speak or understand it well enough to understand what’s happening on the tape. According to Hewit, “Many lesson plans are scripted just as they are in America, but not in a language the teachers all speak.”
The school has six teachers for the more than 700 first-grade students. With only two teaching manuals available for the class and limited supplies, Rollins students found a creative way to allow students to practice writing by putting erasable acetate surfaces over the writing guides to allow for reuse.
At the end of class, Abby Bragg New ’06 ’13MED says goodbye to the students in English, who respond similarly. The interaction is part of the scripted curriculum.
Many boys in the area leave school at an early age to work in the local mines to support their family. If they return to school, they return at different ages, meaning teachers have a wide range of ages in some grades
Prosper and New join with a P1 teacher in using physical activity to help teach English. The movements make it fun and strengthen language skills.
Urquhart uses games to help teach the names of color. As part of this game, students cover their eyes while someone removes a colored object and then asks the participants to identify which color is missing.
A P1 student sneaks a peek during the missing color game.
The daily morning tea break allows Hewit and Rollins students a chance to socialize with teachers at Duha. Here, Hewit is talking with Sam, a P5 and P6 science teacher who is proficient in English.
Teachers hang students’ work on the walls to help reinforce lessons learned.
Because the elementary school does not have playground equipment, some students choose to go over to the nursery school for recess.
A former rugby player, Holt student Nick Celli teaches rugby to secondary students. Before leaving on the trip, he worked with local organizations to have balls donated to the Rwandan school.
Sam Keegan ’16 walks back to where they were staying; the walk was about three miles and took about 40 minutes, including a steep climb on the way there.
Urquhart and Stephanie Sang '15 spend time with children at Hameau des Jeanes orphanage, which they visited every Sunday.
As part of their daily chores, local youngsters fetch water from the lake or community spigots and carry it home in jerry cans.
On the walk back from School, members of the Rollins group pass a village kid who plays a local favorite of pushing a tire with a stick. In the background, another village boy moves a herd of cows.
After attending Catholic mass, Sang and the Rollins team visited with children. Sang takes a moment to exchange Kinyarwanda and English with a local girl.
The cow project, established and funded by REAP, began as a way to address malnourishment, after it was discovered that more than 70 percent of students were coming to school hungry and as a result falling asleep during their courses. By raising dairy cows nearby, the school now can provide fresh milk to students daily.
Rebecca Gakwaya '17, Keegan, and Celli talk to teachers who help with the cow project. They observed the daily process of milking and distributing in order to make recommendations on how to make the cow project financially sustainable.
The Rollins group collected and repaired seven used laptops, which they brought to the school to improve the use of technology education. Since 2011, Hewit has provided approximately 40 laptops to the school.
The Rollins group sorts more than 600 pounds of library books and supplies donated to the school and orphanage.
Urquhart and New help create a database for organizing the books in the school’s small library.
To help strengthen English language skills for lower grade teachers, Easton established a lesson plan and schedule to increase the teachers’ language experience and to improve their phonics and grammar.
The Rollins group worked with P1 and P2 teachers to practice their English skills while getting to know each other. As part of the lesson, teachers were asked to tell their listeners where they were born and where they had lived.
During a side trip, Rollins students visited Nyungwe Forest National Park, which National Geographic listed as one of their must-see places for 2014.
The round trip drive from Musha to Nyungwe Forest National Park took nearly two days, offering students a chance to catch up on sleep.
Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills and the group got to see some the country’s landscape during their drive to Nyungwe Forest National Park.
The Rollins group enjoys a moment together while taking in the scenery. Learn more about Rollins field study trips.