Thursday, June 19, 2014

Getting our hands in the world of vocational training.

Day two of June's "not-so-dry season"
Students learning to lay bricks...with mud.
Just a few pictures from today's adventures in the rain.  John and I visited a technical training school and had some really solid conversation with the teachers and students who are learning construction and electrical trades that will hopefully lead to good jobs in coming years.  It felt good to hang around with some middle-school and high-school aged students (afterall it's been almost 3 weeks since my own students headed out for summer), and it is just remarkable how kids are so much the same no matter where you go.  Full of life, looking for their place in the world, longing for approval and acceptance, and funny as heck.  These kids spend 80% of their day doing practical, hands-on-learning and they absolutely love it.  The other 20% is the academic theory behind it.  Vocational training is getting a huge push from the Rwandan Government but still struggles to overcome the stigma and funding challenges which continue to produce low enrollment... but you wouldn't have known any of that if you saw these kids at work.

Uh...I can't do that.

Kivu Hills will most likely provide a similar model but within a more entrepreneurial context to its students who lag behind the more elite academic high-schools in the country.  And yet when I asked the teacher who himself attended the MIT of Rwanda for civil engineering, he said that students here are more engaged, less of a discipline concern, and generally love learning what they're learning more than their "smarter" peers in prep schools.  Perhaps our continued prejudice about what constitutes "smart" as a civilization is still in need of some reconstruction.  Oh wait, that's already happening...the Rwandan government just embarked on an 18 month curriculum and testing overhaul that will, "help students gain skills and have a competitive edge regional and international labour market." ( That of course doesn't mean throwing the baby out with the bath water, but it is recognizing that there is more to memorizing content and rote learning. Learning by doing is the model that always has and always will get results. Right on Rwanda.

A classroom at The University of Rwanda's College of Finance and Banking.  Professor John Gasangwa showing me where he teaches, except for when he takes his students outside to work on projects--where the learning really happens.

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