A Rwandan Educator’s Journey to Becoming a School Leadership Trainer: Meet Charity Birungi

Over the last decade Rwanda has undergone considerable educational change. In 2012, under the new Education Sector Strategic Plan, the educational system shifted its focus by increasing primary school access to improving quality and relevance as well as expanding access to secondary level schooling. Additionally, the governments’ 12-year Basic Education Plan has made education fee-free through upper secondary. However, while public education has been expanding, private education institutions still serve a large population across the country.  Rwanda has also developed standards for school leaders.

 We caught up with Rwandan educator Charity Birungi during a three-day school leadership training with Edify to hear her perspectives on these educational shifts as well as the role that technical colleges play in post-secondary school provision.  Charity was an observer in the training and this is the first step before she co-facilitates with another Rwandan trainer.

Charity Birungi…in her own words

Education in Rwanda has been undergoing a lot of changes in the past few years. One of the main changes is the employment of new instructional methods. Previously, more formal, traditional methods were used to achieve knowledge outcomes. With the educational reform, our curriculum now focuses more on achieving competencies including dispositions such as attitudes and values; with this shift, we have seen outcomes greatly improve. 

A key part of this shift includes changing how educators view themselves. For me, I know this means acknowledging that I am worthy and significant and here to make a difference in people’s lives by serving them professionally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. If there is one thing that I could share with educators worldwide it is that the only person you can change is yourself; it has to begin with you first. If you want others to be accountable, be accountable to yourself first. If you want peace, be a peacemaker and teach by example. As educators, we need to ensure our actions match our words and do away with the saying “do as I say, not as I do.”

Charity as a participant in a training in Musanze

I have worked to infuse these beliefs throughout my work as a teacher and a principal at various institutions. However, I did not start out intending to study education; originally, I wanted to be a lawyer or a journalist–a career that could help me quickly earn money and support my family. My motivation for education grew from my beloved father who often took the time to sit with me to think through my future career. He said that given the fact that many of our own family members were uneducated, that if I became an educator, I could help bridge the gap, educating my own family and teaching them the significance of education; he empathized that living “with passion and serving others in any work will always lead to success.” While making this choice to become a teacher was not easy, I am so grateful that the knowledge and the skills I continuously acquire through my work and how I have been able to make a significant impact in students’ lives, teachers and many educational organizations I work with. 

Part of these learning opportunities comes from being a part of a professional network called the “Global Pedagogical Network.” This is an international network of protestant schools, teacher training colleges, and universities as well as Protestant denominations worldwide. The purpose of this group is to personally and professionally enrich students and teachers connect ing them globally and allowing them to learn from each other as peers. I was among the selected ambassadors to represent my school in the network, leading peace projects with partner schools from various countries connecting people, organizing trainings, and online activities. This work has allowed me to visit Germany and even Tanzania. Through these experiences, I was able to reflect on a lot of changes that I wanted to make in my own school back at home. For example, I started a Peace Club with students focusing on spreading peaceful communication as well as caring for the community and environment as this is a huge focus in all Anglican Schools.

Charity as an Observer in the training and assisting a school team with their School Development Plan

Since I received my Master’s degree in Educational Planning and Management, I have enjoyed taking on more leadership opportunities. Currently, I work at Muhabura which is a Christian Technical College which promotes technical skills while being grounded in integrity and excellence. It serves 336 students at the secondary level and 565 students at the college level providing certifications in Hotel Management and Tourism, Civil Engineering, Water and Plumbing, and Electrical Engineering. I have learned a lot through this new role, but I am constantly seeking out new opportunities to learn and grow as an educator. 

This opportunity to be a trainer for Edify has allowed me to improve my professional skills, learn from the contexts of other educators to bring this knowledge back to my school and to share experiences and strengthen partnerships. I look forward to future opportunities to learn and grow, especially as the education system continues to go through important changes.  

A morning talk with the trainers Drs. Peter and Mike as they prepare to teach the school leadership modules.

The TOT model that Edify applies in Rwanda and in all their countries is for potential trainers to first observed a training, and then to co-facilitate each module several times.  During those trainings trainees receive support from the Lead Trainer throughout the day as well, and at the end of each day specific feedback. Additionally, after the training each trainee receives a memo outlining strengths and growth areas. This means each person in training will teach all aspects of the modules and receive specific feedback on each activity.  Typically, a person serves as a co-facilitate a minimum of three times before they are ready to offer the module without oversight from the lead trainer.  Currently Edify has one lead trainer in Rwanda and two facilitators.  In August Charity will serve for her first time as a co-facilitator.

The training is over! Upon completion of her role as an Observer, Charity will now join Drs. Mike, Peter and Alphonse as a co-facilitator.

In August we will catch up with Charity again as she begins to co-facilitate in the school leadership training process. Trainees in this TOT model usually teach each module three times before they become trainers.

Paula and Maxie

Meet Charity: https://globaledleadership.org/charity-birungi/

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