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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Early Childhood Conference in Rwanda

Day two of our Early Childhood Conference and we are in the swing of things. Yesterday I gave the keynote address for the opening of our conference setting the scene for the importance of learning in the early years. The nursery teachers have come from far and wide, some travelling for hours on foot. The group varies in age, the young and old alike are here to learn. There is no descrimination. It is a special occasion and every one is smartly dressed. They have brought their best. Mothers are in attendance, their babies strapped to their backs. Old men with worn travelling bags sit quietly to the side. All eager to lean in and glean ideas for their own classrooms.  

Hope Global is providing accommodation and meals for the Rwandan teachers for the three days we are running the conference. Yesterday lunch consisted of rice, beans, fried potatoes, cabbage and a meat stew, the steamy dishes were piled high on everyone's plates, the anticipation evident. The feast was a welcome celebration. 

We are running small group workshops with practical ideas to be implemented in Rwandan classrooms. My workshop is teaching English. I am focusing on letter sounds and blending simple three letter words with short vowel sounds. The Rwandan government changed the second language of Rwanda from French to English three to four years ago. The main language is Kinyarwanda. English is slowly emerging. I have written the letters of the alphabet on smooth stones that I had packed into my luggage. I have tried to think like a Rwandan because their supplies are limited and resources sparse. Yesterday I brought out my stones and showed the teachers how to help children learn the sounds of the English language. They marvelled at the smoothness of my stones and asked, 'Where can we get these?" I realised I am not so good at thinking like a Rwandan after all! 

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