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The power of international partnerships: interview with Jean de Dieu Dusingize

International partnerships play a major role in our work. Our vision is that Umubano Primary School becomes an example of excellence in its own context combined with all the advantages of international resources and expertise. We believe firmly in supporting understanding of interconnection and interdependence in a global world and ensure that all relationships are built on strong principles of equity, respect and reciprocity. This year we have developed strong international partnerships with The Wroxham School, Hove Park School, Dolphin School and Brunswick Primary School (formerly Somerhill Junior School) to strengthen our model of high quality education in Rwanda and develop opportunities for true reciprocal global learning in a range of areas.

The partnership between Wroxham in the UK and Umubano Primary School in Rwanda brings two innovative schools together to explore and share their developmental journeys. The current focus is on leadership. Martyn, Headteacher of Wroxham, and Jean de Dieu, Headteacher of Umubano Primary School, skype regularly to discuss the challenges they face and to share ideas and strategies.

We interviewed Jean de Dieu to get first-hand insight into their sessions.

1. What do you like most about your conversations with Martyn?

While skyping Martyn we share our experiences. Wroxham has had many successful experiences and I can learn from them. Martyn is a good man who is willing to share Wroxham’s best practices with other people. I like to hear that there are things we are doing the same, for instance we both use a positive behaviour strategy. These are some of the things I have discussed with Martyn in our calls: the language policy, teaching IT, having a school forest, developing responsibility in learners, themes and other good ideas for school assemblies and maths teaching.

2. Do you feel that this is helping you to become a more effective leader?

Yes! An example I can give now is that Martyn agreed to send me a book about leadership. I am sure that this book will help me to know more about a leader’s qualities and duties. Another is example is how Martyn shared with me some points they discuss with students in assembly. These ideas helped me to generate some ideas that we discuss with learners in assembly. In the last assembly we had a discussion about using good language at school and it went very well. Also, to develop discipline in students, we learned from Wroxham how P6 students can be given more responsibility and we have put into place School Prefects in P5 and P6. They have started behaving like models and we are giving them more training to know well what they have to do.

3. What have you learned about the UK or about Wroxham that has surprised you?

Everything has a policy at Wroxham. Martyn shared with me the Maths policy. This was a new thing to me, because I had thought the curriculum was enough. This will help us here at UPS as we want to improve how Maths is taught.

From the UK through Kathy [APIE’s Lead Practitioner based at Umubano Primary School], I am learning about participatory methods that can be used in a lesson. Good organisation is another thing I have learnt from UPS, in other words from the UK, because here there is international input from APIE.

4. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your sessions or plans for the future?

I believe in the power of partnership to improve education. Everyone can learn from each other and try to implement some good practices from other schools. We cannot copy everything however we can see what can suit our schools.

We are thinking about organising two calls in the near future. As we want our Nursery to be a centre of excellence, we wish that nursery teachers from both sides could have time to share their experiences. Secondly, we have recently put into place School Prefects. Through a Skype call with Wroxham Prefects, ours can learn their roles and responsibilities.

Watch the short video below for a glimpse of their very first meeting:

While Umubano Primary School is benefiting from the wealth of experience already in place at Wroxham, Martyn too is learning a huge amount from his conversations with Jean de Dieu, both in terms of what they have in common and the particular challenges in Rwanda that are distinct from those in the UK. The relationship is challenging both Heads to look at their context from new perspectives and consider what they are able to do to improve learning outcomes for their pupils.

We are developing partnerships across the world that not only model excellence in the classroom, but also international collaboration - seeing the world from different perspectives and appreciating diversity while working together towards common goals. We look forward to documenting and sharing our progress as we work in partnership to explore what true internationalism in education could look like.

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