Off road romp to Mushikiri!

Today, Friday, we had a baptism of fire off-road – an 80 minute round journey by moto.

It was exhilarating, to put it mildly, as we scrambled up hill and down dale, kicking up the red dust as we wound our way through isolated villages and past banana plantations en route to Mushikiri School.  

The views were stunning although I wasn’t at my most relaxed and probably didn’t fully appreciate the ever unfolding vista ahead of us. I was too busy looking out for the next pot hole along the boulder strewn dirt tracks we were negotiating.

We certainly caused a stir, five muzungu in convoy on motos. All along the route heads  turned as the locals stopped and stared in amazement and the children shouted and waved as we passed through.

Dorothy had chosen to take us to Mushikiri School as part of our induction. It was a school she had worked closely with and which was making very good progress, so much so that it is on the way to achieving model school status.    

We were introduced to the Headteacher and senior staff who gave us some background information about the school. There are 1,700 primary age pupils and 300+ secondary pupils, served by around 30 teachers! In order to accommodate all of the students the school operates a shift system: 7.00 – 11.40am and 12.20-5.00pm.

We were invited to sit in on an English Club where, after greeting us with a beautifully harmonious rendition of a welcome song, the students demonstrated activities which had been designed to improve their spelling, sentence construction, composition and poetry.    

There had been considerable building development at the school and we were proudly taken to the new ICT room where a dozen reconditioned PCs stood idle pending the purchase of a new generator. At the moment the students are being taught ICT theory without being able to use the equipment.

Next stop was the Science ‘laboratory’ where children demonstrated several different scientific experiments that they had learnt, with a verbal explanation in English.

English is now the language of instruction in Rwanda. Pupils and teachers had to switch from French virtually overnight, around 18 months ago, and this has proved very challenging for all concerned.

The final stop on our tour was the Library, a recent innovation prompted by Dorothy. There was only one set of book shelves and most books were piled on the floor. However I was expecting old, outdated and tattered books, whereas many of them were very new sets of texts books. As well as reading silently, the children in the library were playing games such as Connect 4 and noughts and crosses.

Pupil engagement in practical activities of the type we saw is a huge move forward within an education system where learning by rote is common.     

Following our tour of the school we were invited to feed back to the head teacher what we thought about Mushikiri School. We were, of course, very encouraging whilst emphasising the need to maintain progress by continuing to work with their assigned VSO volunteers.

Finally the staff assembled to ask us questions. They were all very respectful and clearly keen to learn and improve. All in all it was an encouraging but humbling experience.

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