Teachers – more precious than gold!

Today October 5th, in observance of World Teachers’ Day, Rwandan schools were closed and teachers countrywide engaged in a celebration of their profession.

I was invited to attend the Nyarabuye Sector celebrations which covered four schools including those to which I’m attached, Nyabitare and Nyamateke.

Rwandan timings are not the most reliable so when Wellars, the head at Nyamateke, informed me the day would run from 09.00-16.00 I decided to arrive around 10.00!

It was a 40 minute trek, cross-country by moto, to Nyarabuye Secondary School where the day’s events were being held and when I arrived Daniel had to dust me off with an old towel he carries on the back of his bike.

As I suspected the main part of the day, speeches and the like, wasn’t due to start until lunchtime. The morning was given over to a football match between primary and secondary teachers from the sector.

Nyarabuye is high up and the match was played on a bumpy cabbage patch of a pitch which, whilst not conducive to the beautiful game, provided disinterested spectators with extensive views across rolling hills, with grazing Ankole cattle, towards distant lakes.  

The match was high on endeavour if a little low on quality and finished goalless. Once the final hand shakes were exchanged, and the players changed, we assembled in the main school hall to await the invited sector and district dignitaries.

These included the local mayor who I was told has many cows. Cows are a huge status symbol and a sign of wealth in these parts. 

Needless to say it was quite a wait and a couple of teachers started up some traditional songs with clapped accompaniment to keep the crowd occupied. As is so often the case in Africa the people seem to have natural harmony and rhythm and a love of singing. It was a very pleasant diversion.    

Once the main event got underway, about an hour later than scheduled, I was invited to sit with the local heads at the top table. A whole string of speeches followed, all in Kinyarwanda, but thankfully interspersed with song, dance and martial arts exhibitions performed by the secondary school pupils.

The Rwandans are generally a reserved people but when the get a public platform, as today, they can talk and talk………

I sat and listened to over two hours worth of Kinyarwanda which meant precious little to me, apart from the odd word with an anglophone derivation. At one point a shopping bag with the logo ‘Teachers are more precious than gold’ was held aloft to a great round of applause.

I was just thinking of making my excuses and slipping away when I was asked if I would like to make a brief address. Luckily I had been warned by Dorothy that this might happen and had prepared a short introduction about myself in Kinyarwanda. Admittedly I read from a piece of paper but my efforts seemed to be appreciated.

I padded it out, in English; by saying how impressed I had been by the local teachers’ attitude and commitment to learning and improving, that no nation could progress or develop without education and that they and their students were the future of Rwanda. All good stuff, I think!         

I also told them, to their utter surprise, that there would be no holiday for teachers and very little public acknowledgement of their worth back in the UK.   

Following my ‘speech’ there was a drinks break and I was rewarded with a bottle of Mützig which was warm but none the less welcome. As the only muzungu present, it had been an honour and a privilege to be part of the teachers’ special day.

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