Strong communication and effective collaboration between a school and its community are key ingredients for high quality education. Where parental support is strong, the quality of the school is consistently higher than in schools where parents have no involvement. Meetings between staff and parents are important opportunities for people to listen to each other, hear parents’ views and consider their recommendations for the school. For Umubano Primary School, which is developing a new model of education in Rwanda, it is about promoting open channels of communication so that everyone has a say and can support the forward development of the school. Parents’ assemblies are a key part of APIE’s strategy to develop strong systems of governance in Umubano Primary School so that it can become locally sustainable within five years and continue to disseminate best practice to other schools.
At the most recent parents’ assembly in Umubano Primary School in Rwanda, we received important positive feedback about our efforts to improve the quality of education. There was particular praise for our approach to child health and safety, the child-centred learning activities and the teaching and learning processes (methodology) used in lessons. Parents were also pleased with the regular communication the school has with them and the way teachers encourage students to share their learning at home. With one parent on the Rwandan Education Board and another who is a District Education Officer, this feedback is a strong endorsement of our approach to school development and teacher training in Rwanda.
One example of the importance of a having a strong, open relationship can be seen in the improvement of recent exam results. In the district maths mock exams there was a 40% improvement in those achieving the top grades. Whereas in the first term the top student received 31%, the top student this term received a fantastic 71%. This is due to three interrelated strands we have been working on with Umubano Primary School; the use of more interactive teaching methods; improved behaviour due to the implementation of a positive behaviour strategy; and a strong relationship with parents and their increased understanding of how to support their children’s learning.
Parents also have a key interest in the development of their whole community, another priority for our work in Rwanda. In the recent meeting, Headteacher Jean de Dieu explained how Umubano Primary School is supporting learners with special education needs by employing a specialist teacher to support them. Parents proposed to broaden this initiative so that Umubano can help other schools identify learners who need additional help, and give them the support they need. This shows how parents too can support our drive to improve the quality of education more widely, by supporting initiatives to share Umubano’s best practice with other schools. They are enthusiastic advocates of the vision and this will be crucial to the five year sustainability strategy, and beyond.
We continue to seek ways to share our vision and listen to parents, working in partnership to provide high quality education for children in Rwanda.