Warning: This is a very long post! Feel free to read in small chunks. I haven’t had internet access for days!
Today I spent the day in Primary 2 and 3. During Primary 2 math the children were practicing writing numbers up to 1000 in their exercise books. Then they had to change the numerals into words. During English class I shared the Second Grade books about likes. The students from Apapec enjoyed seeing your drawings and learning about the different activities, foods, animals and colors that you like. Tessa, everyone laughed when you said that you like rats! Henry, I had to explain to some of the kids what a skateboard is. The children made many connections and expressed that they also like playing soccer (futbol), riding bikes and playing basketball. After we defined the word ‘like,’ the students from Apapec wrote their names and wrote and drew something that as a child living in Rwanda they like. From eating chips to drawing princesses, all topics were covered!
I then used my ipad to record the children saying their names and talking about what they chose to represent on their paper. That way instead of just returning to Brookwood with their artwork, you can hear their voices, see their faces and hear the accurate pronunciation of their names. Some of them are quite long and have Kinyarwanda roots so they will be unfamiliar to you. Some children at Apapec have names that we hear in the US, but not too many. For example the little boys in my host family are named Evan and Ethan. I was interested to learn that many children in Rwanda do not have the same last name as their mother or their father or even their siblings. They have their own unique names. Many children are given a Kinyarwanda name and then after 8 days the parents announce the name that the child will be referred to as. There are also names like Happy, Winner and Blessed. Speaking of names there are 3 Teacher Sarahs at Apapec!
Sarah, Sarah and Sarah! Even spelled the same.
There are no colored printers, overheads or computers in the classroom so the children learn mostly by listening to the teacher not looking at visuals and models. We can easily get on the internet and pull up photos and websites to help us learn and understand new concepts, but everyone does not have those resources in their schools. It can be challenging for the kids to learn about confusing topics without pictures and hands on materials. For example, today the lesson was focused on family relationships and the teacher was trying to explain cousins, aunts, grandmothers and other relatives just using spoken words.
I continue to be so impressed and inspired by the daily Assembly program that the students put on. Just like at Brookwood students get up to sing, dance, read and perform. Many of the mornings focus on values, such as respect for others and kindness. One day this week the students presented in a debate forum. The topic was to propose or oppose (vote for or against) the statement, “Diversity makes the beauty in the world.” The children did a great job giving reasons for the side that they were supporting. I was then called up to give my thoughts on the subject. As you can guess, I talked on the side about how I believe that diversity makes the beauty in the world! If people had the same appearance, the same families, the same beliefs, the same interests and the same experiences, we would never grow and learn from one another. New ideas would not be presented and change would not be possible. Another day the children sang a song about loving their school, which I will play for you. I have recorded a lot of videos in Rwanda so you can see and hear some of the things that I experienced. Around the school you see signs reinforcing appropriate behavior and expectations. One of my favorite messages is right when you walk through the gate and it says, “Tardiness is the enemy to learning,” which means come to school on time so that you can learn.
I finally went to the market and did some shopping with my Rwanda Francs, which is the currency or money that is used here. Katherine, I bought a bunch of colorful woven baskets that you thought were here. I also got a small drum for the classroom and a welcome sign made out of banana leaves! Enzo, I haven’t seen any galimoto wire toy vehicles yet, which kind of surprised me. Also, no rock babies J. I have seen kids playing a game and running around with rubber tires and sticks. Tomorrow I am going to go looking for fabric so the Lower School can make some dolls out of recycled water bottles.
My host mother, Sophie, teaching me how to make a doll.Some fabrics I’m bringing back to Brookwood for African crafts such as water bottle dolls
At Apapec students call their teachers by their first names not their last. I have loved being called Teacher Sarah instead of Miss Dawe while I am here! Greetings are very important in Rwandan and school culture. As soon as I step into the room everyone jumps up to welcome me to their class. The students get very excited to answer questions in class and they all shout, “Me, teacher, me teacher!” while snapping their fingers and flicking their wrist.
Today I went into Primary 1 and taught the math game Roll and Record. It is a First Grade favorite at Brookwood every year so I thought that the students at Apapec might also enjoy it. What I hadn’t considered was that they children had never used or even seen dice before. So, I taught them how to roll two dice together and then count up the total number of pips. Since dice are an unfamiliar material to the students I reminded them to add up only the pips that landed on top and not all of the sides. I loved seeing their faces as they explored this fun new manipulative. I left a collection of dice with their teachers so they can continue to use them for math games. They had fun filling in the result boards with their partners.
The math curriculum for First Grade in Rwanda is very challenging and includes concepts that are not introduced to our older students, such as multiplication and division. In their exercise books the First Graders solved computation problems like 69-___=24, 15+___=87 and 2x___=18 . The children computed the problems in their heads and with their fingers without showing their work in their books. They moved quickly through these warm up exercises.
First Grade math problems!
Children at Apapec also take Kinyarwanda lessons in addition to English and French. There are 24 letters in their alphabet, all of our letters with the exceptions of q and x.
Middle School, most of my posts have been geared towards the younger students’ schoolwork, but this blog section is for you all. Today I went to Grade 5 math and they were learning how to find the volume and the area of a Rubik’s cube. Then students came up to count the vertices and corners. Mr. Holch gave me a bunch more cubes to bring with me and the kids had so much fun working on the puzzle during break time. I also showed them the video that Mr Cabral made with James McKenna explaining in English and French the steps for successfully solving the cube. Both girls and boys were so interested and all wanted a turn.
Even grown ups like Rubik’s!
I found out why the kitchens in Rwanda homes are separate from the main house and living quarters. It is because they use charcoal and the fumes are not safe to be around. So, the cooking area is in a separate small building. Wash is also scrubbed by hand outside of the home in plastic bins and then clothing is hung up to dry on a line. There are not appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines and dryers so most chores need to be done by hand. I have not eaten one processed food since arriving to Rwanda. The diet is very healthy and packed with fresh fruits and vegetables. Even the honey is straight from the farm with no additives. I have noticed that there is not a lot of variety in the foods that people eat here. Almost every lunch and every dinner has been beans, rice, a root vegetable called cassava, bananas (more like a potato, not the sweet kind we have) maize and some greens. No one in Rwanda has heard of food allergies and they were surprised that we have some children who can’t eat peanuts and other nut varieties. Since there are no electrical appliances like dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, most household chores are done by hand. For example, laundry is scrubbed in a bucket and then hangs outside to dry. Cooking area with charcoal stove
Week 2 shower set up. There was no faucet or showerhead in this home so we used a bucket of hot water and cold water to bathe
My second host family has two young boys, Evan age 3 and Ethan (nicknamed Bobo) who is 15 months. Evan speaks primarily French with the exception of some limited vocabulary he has learned at school. However, I have discovered that even if you don’t speak the same language you can build a friendship, form a connection and understand each other. Every day when I get home from school Evan is waiting outside the front door shouting, “Teacher Sarah!!” His daily hugs are one of my favorite parts of the day. As a host gift I brought him a set of Legos, which he had never seen before. Every night he would say to me “Game!” and we would build little cars and trucks together. I loved watching his sense of pride and accomplishment as he figured out how the plastic bricks snap together. After successfully putting on a new piece he would cheer for himself, “Bravo!” Evan is in Nursery 1 and had homework to do most nights. I was very surprised to see that at age 3 some of his assignments were to write the vowels in cursive, draw a radio and number objects using one to one correspondence. It is expected that nursery students color within the lines and he was reprimanded for some scribble marks on his worksheets. It was an interesting contras to watch this little boy attempt to write cursive letters and yet still need reminders to not put the Legos in his mouth.
Question marks on 3 year old scribbles
Cursive vowels in Nursery 1
I did not see any car seats installed in families’ vehicles and young children freely roam about the car. I also found out that the majority of people in Rwanda do not yet have email addresses and most do not have mailing addresses. There are no mailboxes outside of people’s homes and when I sent Christmas gifts to my host families this December I will need to send to Apapec to make sure they arrive.
Evan and Bobo in their Brookwood heron tees!
My final goodbye to Evan
Going to miss these 2 girls beyond words
I am sitting down to write my final blog post from Rwanda (well, technically at the airport in Amsterdam!) I addressed the Apapec community at morning assembly for the last time. I told them that while I was in Rwanda some one asked me one night if the sky looked the same here as it does in America. While we may speak different languages and have different skin colors we all live under the same sky. We all have strong minds, loving hearts and hopes and dreams. One of the projects I worked on these 2 weeks is asking children at Apapec about their hopes and dreams. I heard about how, just like many of you, they aspire to become doctors, engineers, teachers, farmers and futbol players. I have discovered during this journey that we are much more similar than we are different and we can learn and grow so much by collaborating together. I am so grateful to my host families, the administration, teachers and students of Apapec and Brookwood. I am excited to see what the future brings as our students brainstorm, work together on curricular projects and solve problems together. As I put on my Facebook status the other day, “Out of all the places that I’ve traveled in my life I’ve never met such welcoming, kind, generous, respectful, happy people as I have in Rwanda. The country is such an example of strength, unity and forgiveness after a difficult history.” Thanks for following along with me these past 2 weeks! Please come find me if you want to hear more stories or have any questions about Rwandan culture.
Saying goodbye to some of my new teacher friends