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Two Canadian Teachers provide training in Kivumu
Friday, 14 January 2011 Written by Cherie Plamping

Two Canadian Teachers provide training in Kivumu

We (Jayne Carlielle and Cherie Plamping) arrived at the Franciscan Friary and Father Vjeko Centre in Kivumu, Rwanda, after having been picked up at the Kilgali Airport by Father Ivica Peric. It was an exhausting 36 hour trip from Canada, but teachers, luggage and storage bins filled with resources for the upcoming courses all arrived safely.

It was Cherie’s first trip to Rwanda and Jayne’s second (she had come with her husband and son in August of 2009). The first impression one has upon seeing Rwanda in December is of lush green grass and beautiful hills filled with terraced crops. The rainy season had just ended and it was an incredible sight! The one thing marring the beauty was seeing so many soldiers with machine guns on the streets of Kigali. Other things that made an impression on Cherie were all the people on the sides of the roads, who kept having to jump out of the way of the cars, buses, van taxis and bicycle taxis.

People definitely don’t have the right of way here like they do in Alberta! Also, as we got closer to Kivumu, we started seeing goats tied to ropes that were attached to trees and people of all ages, even three-year-olds carrying containers of water. Because of the intense poverty of the villages, children, as soon as they can walk, have to contribute to the work that the family needs to do in order to survive. They don’t have electricity, running water, or bathrooms inside their houses. Life is hard work and the labour is intense, especially for all those who have a small plot of land that must be cultivated, seeded, weeded and harvested – by hand. There are no machines to do the work here!

Two Canadian Teachers provide training in Kivumu

The reason we are here is to teach some English courses. Advanced Consulting for Education (ACE), which is owned by Dianne Tyers and centered in Missisauga, Ontario puts on teacher training courses all across Canada. Dianne put together a. non-profit program, Community English Language Education (CELE) and this is the first pilot project as part of this new program. It is being taught to the teachers at the Father Vjeko Centre as well as the surrounding primary and secondary schools. Jayne is teaching English as a Foreign Language and Cherie is teaching a training course for teachers on how to teach, as well as how to teach English as a course. This past year the government of Rwanda decided that all education had to be taught in English. Prior to that, French was the official language. This has necessitated all teachers learning English as well as being fluent enough to teach in this language.

Two Canadian Teachers provide training in KivumuIn 2012, all teachers will be required to sit an exam to determine their English language ability. Father Ivica invited ACE to teach some courses to his teachers and trainees, and then offered the courses to the teachers from the surrounding schools. He has been wonderful to us! He showed us around on our first day and then proceeded to help us in any way he could. Whatever we have asked of him, he has done his utmost to accommodate us.

He is constantly recharging our phones (which he has lent us) and getting phone cards for us so we can call home, as well as recharging our laptops, which he has also lent us. When you are so far from home and you don’t have all the modern conveniences at your fingertips, it is so great to have such fantastic support!

Fortunately, we (Jayne and Cherie) were able to have a few days to settle in before we started teaching as we both had severe jet lag upon arriving here. When we first went to see the school and look at the classrooms we would be teaching in, it was amazing to see the huge container that was sent by Canadians. It had been filled with resources for the school. Now it has been divided into three rooms. It seemed tailor-made for the spot it sits on. It has been painted with lovely Alberta landscapes including moose, rivers and mountains along with the Canadian flag. It made us feel at home! Ivica and a few of the other friars took us to Gitarama, the closest town one day and this past weekend, Friar Joseph took us to Lake Kivu, which is about 1 ½ hours away. Before we leave we are going to spend some time in Kigali.

Two Canadian Teachers provide training in KivumuWe arrived on December 23rd, so we were here for all the Christmas celebrations. Catholicism is the main religion here, so we went to the church attached to the friary to celebrate mass. The church holds 2000 people, and in the few times we have been so far, it has been full. What has amazed me (Cherie) is that the children sit quietly on the wooden benches for 2-3 hours. They have no toys to play with, but they don’t complain. Actually, we have only heard children cry once or twice since we’ve been here, and there are hundreds of children around. The singing at Mass is glorious and there are choirs and dancers who perform at various times throughout the services. During the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day masses, the generator was on, so there was music on a keyboard and people were able to talk into a mic. It was also lovely to see decorations in the church and the crèche at the front was lovely. At the Christmas Mass, there was a live Nativity scene on the stage, with “Mary” holding a newborn baby and a little boy holding a lamb.

Our classes are going well. We each have about 20 students, but my (Cherie’s) numbers vary as teachers are gearing up to head back to classes for the upcoming year on Monday, December 10th. Some have had meetings with their headmasters this past week to work on timetables, etc. We still have another week of teaching, but I don’t know how many teachers will be coming back for the final week. They have requested permission to keep attending the course, but they have not received a final answer yet. I will at least have the four teachers from Father Vjeko Centre and one priest from a neighbouring village who has been coming. The teachers have been very keen to learn, which has been so gratifying to both of us. At break times, the teachers get out a football (soccer) and have very competitive games which last all of 15 minutes.

Two Canadian Teachers provide training in KivumuMost of these people eat a maximum of only one meal a day, so it’s hard to know where they get all their energy. However, due to a donation from Canada, all of the 40 students who are attending the courses are being provided with lunch daily. The cost is about $0.50 per person per day. Thankfully, Jayne and I live at the Friary and so we have our “three squares” a day. The food has been a bit different. We have eaten rabbit, goat and beef heart since we’ve been here. We’ve also had some Canadian staples like Shepherd’s Pie, Lasagna and Fries. Oswaldi, the cook is amazing. Lunch and supper are both hot meals and usually consist of soup, beans, squash or some other vegetable, coleslaw (the best I’ve ever tasted), and a meat dish. What a difference to what the villagers get! As you can imagine, on one meal a day or one meal every two days, there aren’t too many overweight people here. On the contrary, people are extremely thin.

One of the neat things we have witnessed is Market Day. We’ve been to two of them in two different places. All goods are spread on fabric on the ground and they are separated into categories. There are vegetables: cassava; tomatoes; sweet potatoes, etc.; beans; different kinds of flour; clothing; shoes; a butcher with raw meat on a table; a bicycle repair man; a shoe repair man; a tailor; and some dry goods. We also saw a building with a grinder for grain; many people were lined up outside for their turn to get their grain ground. The friars funded the machine and the profits help support children whose parents have died of AIDS. Hundreds of people come to sell and to buy at a market. Almost of all of these goods are carried on people’s heads. One of the biggest impressions I have had is to watch women carrying a full basket on their heads and babies tied around their backs with cloth. It is quite a sight!

Jayne & vendorlovely Children

Another interesting thing we have encountered is vendors coming to the front of the friary to sell us their handmade wares. Most are trying to raise school fees for their children, so they can go to school. We’ve pretty much had different people come every day and there have been some beautiful things, such as jewellery (wooden bracelets and necklaces, as well as earrings), hot plates and baskets of various kinds made of different types of grasses, marachas, wooden nativity sets, etc. While it has been time consuming meeting with all of the vendors, we have bought a number of things. Jayne has purchased some things which will be sold in Canada, the proceeds of which will be sent back here to help support the school. A large number of students are supported by the Friars. If students don’t have the school fees, they can’t go to school. Support is needed to allow these children to get an education. The school year has three terms, and it costs approximately $120 per term to send a child to school. So many families have large numbers of children and it is extremely hard, if not impossible for many of them to send all of their kids to school. Hard to imagine when you come from a country like Canada where every child has the right to free education!

Rwandan Roads

What will the future hold for these children? How will they survive? It’s so sad to see! It’s amazing the difference the Father Vjeko Centre and its teachers and students have made in the community over the last few years. Some of the infrastructure built by the teachers and students include: two underground water tanks, one of which holds 420,000 litres of water; above ground tanks; additional classrooms in the school; 10 classrooms for the Primary School; an addition to the convent; a meeting house and dining room for children whose parents have died of AIDS; renovations of existing buildings on land where the Secondary School will be built; church renovations, building furniture for different schools; and making uniforms for school children and the trainees. The vocational training the trainees get is remarkable and very practical.

Cherie surrounded by kidsJayne and I are here to help teachers be better at what they do. Many of the teachers only have a primary school education themselves, so they could do with some training. Kudos to Dianne Tyers and Father Ivica for arranging this! Dianne provided the courses, resources and the airfare and insurance for Jayne and me to come here. Father Ivica and the friars are providing our accommodation and our food as well as some additional resources along with a lot of lively table conversation and trips to a number of places close by. Some of the Friars also play mean games of Parcheesi, Tambola (a type of Bingo that we all played for about three hours on New Year’s Eve), and Rummy. Jayne and I are donating our time.

Father Vjeko Center

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