Update from Rwanda

We wanted to share this update from Sister Ann, Sister Juvenal and Sister Laetitia on what is happening in Rwanda and with the schools:

Rwanda has received high marks from experts for its Covid-19 management. The Government responded early, mobilized contact tracers, closely monitors all cases, makes testing free and accessible, and even uses robots to take temperatures and deliver supplies to patients! Despite a recent spike in cases, and worrisome trends on the continent, the situation in Rwanda is well-controlled. As of August 1st, the Airport has opened and Rwanda is accepting visitors again!

As for education in Rwanda, the future of schools re-opening is uncertain. The latest communiqué from the Prime Minister states that “Schools will remain closed to allow sufficient time for a further health assessment and thorough preparedness for the resumption of in-person classes. Remote learning continues to be encouraged and should be strengthened.” The government continues to coordinate with telecom companies to make learning portals free, and to ensure easy Internet access. Public school teachers continue to receive salaries, although this is not the case for all private schools, making it difficult for many financially.

The Education Ministry’s e-learning platform now draws more than 70,000 users per day, up from 5,000 before the pandemic, according to Rwanda Education Board (REB) Director, Dr. Irénée Ndayambaje. He said in a recent interview, “What we are doing in terms of e-learning is a big undertaking …learning can take place anytime, anywhere … Going forward, remote learning solutions even when schools reopen shall continue not only to supplement the physical classroom teaching but also to better transform our education to make it ICT-led education.”

A robot at Kigali Airport helps with screening travelers

Maranyundo Girls School
The Maranyundo Girls School is preparing for re-opening. It passed its initial inspection related to safe spacing in classrooms and dormitories. However, given the uncertainty, Head of School Sr. Laetitia is working with faculty and families on a contingency plan for remote learning.

While ideally all students would have access to a laptop and Internet for remote learning, at this point all MGS students at least have access to some kind of learning device. In April and May, 100 locally-produced, reduced-cost smartphones were distributed to families who did not already have devices, along with free Internet cards. It took time as some families live in very rural areas and travel was restricted, but now all students are able to participate in the school’s remote learning platform, and stay in touch with teachers and fellow students. The smartphones also enable mobile money transfers to support students in need of food, supplies and medicine.

The MGS faculty have all completed the official training on how to use REB’s Google-based e-learning platform with the national curriculum. Sr. Laetitia has also arranged customized training to ensure they can successfully set up their remote classrooms and engage with students.

Phones for the girls have all been distributed! Thank you!

Benebikira Schools Network
The Maranyundo Initiative also supports the broader Benebikira Schools network. Former MGS Head of School, Sr. Juvenal, now oversees curriculum at all 21 schools in the network and recently arranged a week-long training for Benebikira School Heads. In addition to sessions on school leadership facilitated by Sister Juvenal, the Heads received tech training. They were particularly happy to learn how to use Zoom, Web-X and Microsoft Teams.  To practice, they set up virtual meetings with teachers from their schools — which were a huge hit and open up many exciting possibilities! The Heads plan to continue to meet virtually once a month.  Additional trainings are planned for Bursars and Deans of Discipline.

There is now a Maranyundo BookMobile! Sister Juvenal purchased a car to regularly visit all the schools. But that is not the only plan she has for the car. She identified several factors that made a difference in the school culture and ultimate success of MGS, such as teaching materials, small class size and an equal proportion of scholarship and paying students. She also noted that the Maranyundo Initiative sent over a steady stream of books which helped establish a reading culture at MGS.  She plans to spread this to other schools using her car as a bookmobile. MGS books will travel to other schools. Once several students have read the same book, book club discussions across schools are planned.

Looking Forward
MGS — like all of Rwanda — is facing serious challenges this year.  Many parents who were able to pay school fees have lost jobs and are struggling. Sister Laetitia anticipates a much greater need for remote learning tools, scholarships, as well as food, supplies and medicine for students during closures. To help, many have made a one-time gift.  Thank you to all who have done so!! There are so many COVID-related needs in the world right now it can seem overwhelming. Thank you for keeping the Maranyundo community in your hearts!

We miss you all and long for the time we can all be together!