Thursday, 16 January 2014

Gasundwe Village School - Update

As you know I visited the school in the village last week and spent two lovely days with the new children. I will be visiting them again in a couple of weeks, but this time I just wanted to get a ‘feel’ of where we are up to and to meet the new intake.

All of our children except 2 have been promoted to Primary 1 at the nearest Primary School where we have links and where I will be doing some training with the teachers. At the moment, because we only have use of a building which does not belong to us but to the local church, we are unable to develop the space into a quality Nursery learning environment. But, even so, the work that Gabrielle, our teacher does with the children is inspiring. He clearly loves children and enjoys their company, He is firm but kind and he uses interactive methods when he can. He not only teaches but he is also a focus in the community for advice on other matters, often concerning health issues.

The school year in Rwanda runs from January to November and so at this time of year Gabrielle is very busy registering new children and passing on reports of children who have moved up to P1. Every day parents or grandparents bring children to be registered, building up to a maximum of 60 (theoretically).

On my first morning back in the village I left the house and walked up to the school. I strolled past Mama’s coffee plants and through the banana trees, coming across familiar sights and sounds. The view of the lake opened up before me as I passed the homes of friends. People greeted me with big smiles and happy handshakes.  I climbed up the rough steps carved into the hillside by human feet and came to the rough church building which acts as our school base. As I rounded the corner my eyes were awash with the sight of little children playing in the sunshine. I saw Gabrielle with skipping rope in hand giving a demonstration of how to skip! I saw another group of children playing hopscotch in the dirt.  I spied the new water tank and mothers by the new water tap, washing the pots after serving the porridge. It was a happy and healthy scene!

As soon as I get the camera out they stop playing! 

Outdoor play after porridge

Before school starts in the morning or in the afternoon children are given Sorghum Porridge which is a staple food of this area. Feeding the children was a priority when the project started and it made a tremendous difference to the children’s development and health. As each new intake comes to the nursery we see again how poor these families are. There are still children with big (empty) bellies, caused by protein malnutrition. The kids don’t get enough protein so fluid leaks out of the blood vessel walls in the abdomen area. This fluid collects in the ‘peritoneal space’ and the space extends. (I got this on google, I am not a health expert). So, really we need to be feeding more protein to the children.

As with all young children when they first start school or Nursery there are some who don’t want to leave their mothers and there are others who can’t wait to get into the classroom. The children are shown how to line up one behind the other so that they can enter the building in an orderly fashion, without hurting anyone else in their excitement. Time spent on these strategies now is time well spent for future learning. 

Our school is very basic at the moment but we have plans to improve with the support of friends in O2R, Canada. When the children enter the classroom they sit on the benches in rows, girls on one side, boys on the other. When all 57 were assembled Gabriel greeted them warmly. I introduced myself and they giggled to hear me speak in Kinyarwanda. The first session was about learning names and Gabrielle patiently asked each little one to say their name out loud. Some of these children are very shy and quiet, whilst others are only too pleased to stand up in front of everyone and shout their name out loud! The Teaching Assistant, Esperance sits on the benches with the children to give them encouragement and to take them to the toilet when they need to go. 
The new water tap by the school/church

After the next outdoor play session Gabrielle uses a rice sack teaching aid to extend vocabulary in Kinyarwanda, getting children to think about what is missing in these pictures. This will be the first time these children have seen pictures of any kind.

Parents also often bring children who have particular health needs or disabilities and ask for advice. In these situations it is very difficult because we have such limited resources. The Rwandan Government has a policy of Inclusion of children in schools, which is fantastic. However, if a child has problems walking, how can he get to a school when the journey is a walk of more than one hour over difficult terrain? And if he does manage to get to school, what facilities will there be for him there? All these are difficult questions for the school system on top of all the other challenges. 

Anyway, that's all for now. Sorry about the poor presentation. I still don't understand what happens to the font colour and background colour sometimes even after 3 years of posting this blog!!

Lots of love, Triciaxx


  1. Ni byiza cyane cyane Madame Atherton!

  2. Thanks for that my questions answered. Make sure to tell everyone that we read about the school and we are pleased to see them skipping and hear about them learning.

  3. That's great to hear that Esperance is working as a teaching assistant now, you seem to be making a lot of progress!