Keza is five years old. She is in her last year of pre-primary school at Gasanze School, one of the UNICEF-supported Child-Friendly Schools. She is excited about graduating from pre-primary and speaks happily about her teachers and the variety of toys she finds in class.
When asked what she dreams to be in the future, Keza responds without hesitation. “I want to be the president when I grow. I am in school to prepare myself for that dream.” Explaining how her lessons help her towards her dream, Keza proudly adds, “my teacher gives me time to play with toys and he teaches us Kinyarwanda and Mathematics. I know a president must know how to read and write and should know how to count well.”
Gasanze School is a beneficiary of the UNICEF CFS model rollout by the Ministry of Education in which over 70 schools were constructed. Most recently, in collaboration with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the school has received an addition of a pre-primary section. This initiative is part of the UNICEF pilot model for early learning, supported by Schools for Africa and UK Department for International Development. As a full-fledged primary school from pre-primary, Gasanze School has spacious, aerated classrooms, improved sanitation and hygiene facilities, a well-stocked library, disability-friendly buildings and pathways, and green safe playgrounds. The recently added pre-primary unit has been equipped with child-appropriate furniture and a range of play-based materials to support children’s learning.
Through play, children are able to engage in hands-on activities as they interact with their classmates. This approach enhances innovation and creativity as children are able to play and learn according to individual interests and choices.
Jean Claude Munyeshyaka, Keza’s teacher, says, “When pupils begin their first year of nursery school, they are excited but shy. They are usually unable to speak because they are not with their parents. This is a good time for us to start engaging them until they are able to talk and share their thoughts.” Jean Claude explained that the lessons he teaches his students in nursery prepare them to start primary school with a solid foundation. Jean Claude uses the early learning teaching manual developed by Rwanda Education Board with the support of UNICEF. As part of overall support to the curriculum review process, towards the currently rolled-out competency-based curriculum, UNICEF has collaborated with the Ministry of Education to develop the first ever pre-primary curriculum. Jean Claude has also benefitted from UNICEF-supported national trainings for caregivers on facilitating play-based learning, and continues to benefit from teaching support through the UNICEF-supported school-based mentorship programme aimed at supporting the national school-based mentorship programme implemented by Rwanda Education Board.
Expanding access to pre-primary education is only one of the ways UNICEF and the Government of Rwanda collaborate to create a vibrant new generation with visions like Keza’s. Encouraging children to dream big and plan their future is essential for strengthening Rwanda’s education system. In schools like Keza’s, each student has a personal file, where teachers keep track of a child’s individual interests based their habits during play. This allows teachers to support their students’ passions to achieve their dreams.
Eugenie Mukamurenzi, headmistress at Gasanze, said, “I am happy about our progress impacting quality education. I hope UNICEF will continue to help the Government of Rwanda support our school so we can ensure quality education for the future generation of students.”
Source : UNICEF