Saturday, June 21, 2014

Salmon were made to swim upstream, but it doesn't make it any easier.

The road to Rwamagana from Kigali seemed much shorter this time in John's car and not crammed into a bus or on the back of a bicycle.  Our destination was the same as it was in 2012...Rwamagana Lutheran School--a private secondary school (middle and high), but this five-year-old school looked much different.  Our mission was different as well.

This may be the only school in Africa using the Expeditionary Learning Model (, although only in practice, not in name.  Our mission for the day was to interview teachers, students and it's director and founder, Robin in hopes of getting the down and dirty, nitty gritty, tough-love kind of advice that we need to start a private school on the other side of the country in an even more difficult context.

The realities of any private school in Africa are mostly not pretty, and throw in with that the fact that this school started with 22 out of 24 students taken right off the street.  RL still subsidizes 70% of student tuition fully five years into the process and is seeking to use the innovative Expeditionary Learning model in a country that is by and large still using (and testing to) a traditional, content-heavy system.  With limited resources the school has very few amenities and yet still manages to attract and pay for some of the most talented teachers in the country.  So talented and well-trained in fact that they've created another problem--4 of the founding teachers have been recruited out of the school and into the University of Rwanda's College of Education in the last 3 months.  This means that the huge investment in human capital and institutional knowledge necessary for leading an innovative model into stability is just suddenly...gone.  No doubt these teachers have gained valuable skills and a pedagogy that will benefit the entire country through their jobs at the university, and one can't blame them for pursuing higher wages, but herein lies one of the reason why education evolves so slowly!

Like a salmon in its upstream battle for the goal, innovative education models will struggle on, against the current, in hopes of realizing the investment for change.  It is in all reality the story of any innovation, any positive change, anything worth doing.  The question for KHA then is how to face this reality and if not solve the problem, reduce the negative impacts and increase the positive ones.  By using donor investment to attract quality teachers, logical contracts that retain them and a financially self-sustainable school operating structure to pay them, we're hoping to wisely and carefully ensure that our most important investment is protected...the teachers.  Teachers are the heart and soul of any school and make the most difference in whether is goes somewhere or falls on its face.  A good teacher can still make a huge impact, even if the classroom is under a tree or in a tent.  Just as a church is not the building, but the people in it, a school will thrive with the right people no matter where they are.

1 comment:

  1. So true. A successful school needs the foundation of dedicated teachers and adminitrators. Good luck and prayers to you all. :-)