In awell-structured intensive two-day conference at Africa New Life Ministries (ANLM) held at their headquarters, the Dream Centre, in Kicukiro District, on June 22 to 23, 2018, Pr. Fred Katagwa, the organisation’s executive director, told the attendees who were majorly teachers and headmasters from across the country that they form, or rather, make the agenda of a nation. This eye-opening assertion, advanced by this education expert, left with me a large stock of questions, ideas and imaginations. I was certainly swayed into self-evaluation, and then into peer-auditing of my teacher colleagues: Firstly, what’s my sentient contribution to the national agenda? Secondly, how do my colleagues, in their cognisant endeavours, make or contribute to the national agenda? The statement came weighty across the audience and perhaps burdening to carry, if teaching isn’t your calling.
On returning to my classroom duty, I felt compelled to ask a few colleagues who did not attend the conference, what their perception was, if any, of their contribution to the national agenda, as teachers. All I could sense was how remotely placed in their minds this whole perspective of the teacher’s significance in nation-building was.
However, I chanced to sit with three headmasters from public schools that partner with African New Life Ministries. My objective was to solicit for what they make of the assertion. These headteachers have an outstanding pass-rate in their government schools. They take quality initiatives little-by-little, such like buying high quality school supplies; doing piecemeal approach in fencing their schools, while actively involving parents. One mentioned how carefully he uses the capitation grant in adding value to his school.
What happens to other schools? In an attempt to reflect on this, I came across some schools that were coming from Western Province, and who were unaware of this pool of schools that partner with ANLM. I was curious, especially, to compare their pass-rate in national exams with those of these partnership schools. There is a great disparity; and one lamented that some of his pupils often complete primary six when they cannot compose one correct sentence in English. I plunged into a conclusion that ANLM has made a significant impact in uplifting the quality standards of learning across her partner schools, impacting over 10,000 children. The experience I picked from these well-performing schools sent me on the journey of searching for the underlying secret of their success.
While in a discussion during recess, we were joined by one Johnson Karamuzi who was moderating the conference. Mr Karamuzi, himself, the director of Africa College of Theology (ACT), a leadership centre owned and sponsored by ANLM, is a well-educated, passionate and natural teacher who believes that every child can succeed in learning. This man, full of life, couldn’t desist from contributing his ideas. The blend of our discussions arrived at an amazing conclusion, such that, if all resources are provided and Christ is made the centre of operations, all teachers can ably contribute to the victory of our children. This prompts a series of probing questions: How many schools are Christ-centred in Rwanda? What are they doing to transform their children? How are the teachers contributing to the national agenda? For now, these queries remain but some serious food for thought.
On the whole, during the conference, what was tackled? To prepare us spiritually and centre our focus onto Christ, we had “Devotion” by Pr Florence Mugisha. On the other hand, for resource materials, we had such themes as “Knowing God” by Dr Denis Kilama, Eugene Mugisha and Pr Fred Katagwa, “Making a Difference in Teaching” by Pr Fred Katagwa; “Knowing God and Classroom Application” by Dr Lawrence Oseje; “Student Assessment” by a US team. This line-up was blended with lots of group discussions. You would straightaway deduce that Jesus Christ is at the centre of everything that the organisation’s school leaders do with schools. Lots of assignments were given, including homework tasks for teachers.
While doing my task, I discovered that the best teacher was Jesus Christ (Journal of Biblical Foundations of Faith and Learning. Vol 1: McCoy & John W. 2016). This journal is a must read for both teachers and parents. It provides enough evidence about Jesus being the ‘Master Teacher’. From this journal, I picked out that the English word “teacher” originated from an Anglo-Saxon word, “teacan”, which means to show or to point out. The authors further lament that, many of us are accustomed to pointing things out to students, either verbally, with a pointer stick in the olden days, or by the use of a laser pointer a few years ago, or with the new pointer: the PowerPoint. Furthermore, our teaching profession is singled out as one of the gifts from God. When we leave our teacher colleges, we yearn for good schools where we can make a living; however, our “developing societies” have also snatched us away from this calling.
To prove this point and highlight a notion of Christ-centeredness, permit me to share a snapshot of Jesus’ teaching methods outlined in this journal article:
1.Speaking with authority
2. Using object lessons
3.Use of repetition method instead of what we call, drill and kill
4.Story telling as claimed by Andy Stanley who says that “memorable is portable”
6.Sayings and word pictures like; “Do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Mathew 7:6)
7.Capturing the attention of the audiences
8.Experiential learning where Jesus sent out his disciples and required them to come back with success stories
9.Questioning his disciples constantly.
Enhanced by these methods and if well used by teachers in the classroom, learning is going to be indispensable and quite memorable, especially as accentuated by Pr Katagwa’s further clarifications that, “Learning is beyond giving children knowledge”.
The object of true education is transforming the children in your care. For sure, schools that hinge and rotate around Christ-centred education are going to stand the test of time. The world into which our school children swim through, needs Christ, at both the centre of their lives and of their learning process. This is the very reason Pr. Florence Mugisha, for her part, re-affirmed that, “teachers are both salt and light to their children”. Christ-centred learning environments are teacher’s great secret to emulate if we are to be part of those who endeavour to create national impact as such environments that are full of positive affectivity; yet not without self-sacrifice from us teachers and our other adult care-givers.
The writer is a teacher trainer at Rwanda Education Assistance Practice.