Since returning from Maternity Leave, I have become a new kind of stakeholder at Umubano Primary School – a parent - as my eldest daughter Sophia has started in Nursery.
It wasn’t an easy decision for me to bring Sophia to UPS. I was worried that Sophia might not settle into a class of Kinyarwanda speaking children and that she might find it disruptive seeing her mum around the campus as I show people around the school and interact with teachers and students – you can imagine my worry when we were preparing for the Minister of Education’s visit during week four of the term, I had visions of Sophia running over to me during his visit with a thousand and one questions! However, Sophia and her teachers have risen to this challenge and most of the time she stays in class, simply waving at me when I pass by or shouting out with an important story about what she has learnt or who she is playing with.
Sophia is thoroughly enjoying the play based environment which UPS offers. She loves the fancy dress corner and I see her walking to the toilets dressed as a different character on a daily basis. She also enjoys the materials in class, especially the home corner where she cooks porridge for her peers, the story books which she puts into visitors hands asking them to read her another one and the building blocks which she uses in a range of imaginative ways, encouraged to do so by her teachers. Sophia loves the morning circle where she learns songs and rhymes in English, Kinyarwanda, Swahili and even French – she is currently teaching me one in Swahili about a rabbit who sleeps with one eye open! I think this is quite something for a three year old, but it is just part of the standard offering at UPS; something teachers encourage students to join in with, from day one. Sophia also loves the frequent learning walks that her class go on; whether it’s to visit the swamp, the banana plantation or the cows grazing nearby, she always has a story to tell about what she did at school.
I have been really impressed with Sophia’s academic progress too – she can already recognise the first six letter sounds of Jolly Phonics (s, a, t, p, i, n), has greatly improved her fine motor skills and is beginning to make improvements socially, thanks to the great patience and kindness of her teachers. She is also picking up Kinyarwanda words and developing her English vocabulary.
This has embedded my belief that a bilingual approach to education, when done well, can have a powerful impact on learning, and gives children a strong foundation for future language learning. It has also demonstrated how much a child can learn, even in a month, through a play based approach to learning.
So, my dual role as proud Mumma and Country Director enables me to acknowledge this first-hand insight into the positive impact that the teaching and learning is having on Nursery students at Umubano Primary School.
Sophia's Family Portrait