Teaching English As a Foreign Language in Rwanda
Oct 23, 2009 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 3319 Views
Rwanda has recently announced that it will begin an official policy of teaching in English in its schools in an attempt to raise the international profile of the country. Its colonial past had meant that French was the dominant foreign language in the African country with the majority of the population speaking the native Kinyarwanda. However, since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Rwanda and France have been quick to blame each other for the massacre of 80,000 Tutsis, souring relations between the two nations. Although this is not a reason given behind the switch from French to English, many believe that it does play a major role in the decision to eliminate French from the national curriculum.
Officially, the Rwandan government is explaining the decision as a way to strengthen ties between its English-speaking neighbours including Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. It will also help them in terms of economy and business as English is the leading language around the world in terms of trade and commerce.
The sweeping reforms are set to begin shortly, with some teachers already having received some basic training in the English language. However, there is the problem that if the teachers do not know enough English to be able to teach their students, the reform will be useless.
As of January 2009, only 4,700 of Rwanda's 31,000 primary school teachers had received English training, and only 600 of the 12,000 secondary school teachers have received the same. There is growing demand for people qualified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to travel to Rwanda and help raise the knowledge of the language among the 43,000 teachers in the country.
People from neighbouring countries have moved into Rwanda to help teach English to the teachers, and the British Council have already sent TEFL teachers in the country. For independent teachers of English there are many opportunities to begin teaching English as a foreign language in the country, with the opportunity to learn new skills and immerse yourself in the culture of Rwanda.
The African country has already made some steps towards making English the national second language, as entrance to the elite Institute of Science and Technology is in English and it is becoming increasingly the language of the national university. There are more government officials speaking English although many are still more comfortable with using French. The dominant language however remains Kinyarwanda as this is spoken by every Rwandan, making social cohesion easier after the tumult of the 1990s.
As teachers continue to be trained in the English language, the process of teaching classes in English instead of Kinyarwanda remains a slow one. Maths and science will be two of the early subjects to be taught in the new language with more descriptive classes like art and history still been taught in Kinyarwanda until the teachers are more fluent in English. From early evidence it seems that the children are quickly picking up the language and the success of the reform will depend on how many teachers will be able to demonstrate a skilled understanding of English.