To look at Gikomero School and the surrounding village today, you would never know that this area used to be considered a prime example of division and poverty. Today, students and community members are happy and hardworking. They are motivated to serve as an example for other struggling villages as a testament to the value of transformation that comes from a quality education and a school that provides it at the heart of the village.
Under our School Development Program, Wellspring has been working with Gikomero since 2011. When we first arrived, teachers would not lesson plan, they did not properly evaluate students, and they used physical punishment as a method of discipline. The leadership did not have a vision for the school to improve, and so they let this tumultuous situation continue. For the past six years, our trainers have worked with the leadership and teachers to help them combat these issues. Performance has improved dramatically and now the leaders have a vision for the future. They are working towards seeing Gikomero become a model school for its entire sector. Now that teachers understand the importance of a quality education and are well-versed in the techniques necessary to implement it, this goal is within reaching distance.
In a recent Grade One English lesson, a teacher developed activities and teaching aids that would help the students learn different job titles. But the teacher did not only teach the students about the vocabulary surrounding careers, he also spent time engaging with each student about their dream job for the future. He encouraged each one in the pursuit of these dreams and helped them to write and tape it to the wall so that they could remember what they are working towards. During a secondary lesson, students conducted experiments using weights and water to learn about buoyancy. They worked as a team and respected each other and their teacher. Both of these classroom lessons would have been unthinkable when we first encountered Gikomero.
We have also been working with the local Gikomero community using our Asset-Based Community Development methods. After sensitizing parents to their role in their child’s education and helping them to identify their assets, our trainers have seen a huge improvement in the community’s investment in the school. Parents have undertaken many initiatives, such as rallying around families who struggle to keep their children in school due to a lack of resources and bringing dropouts back to school.
All of these efforts, both in the school and surrounding community, have borne fruit.
Recently, Gikomero was selected as a model village for the Gasabo district. In this new government initiative, each district in Rwanda is constructing a model village to serve as an example of what all communities should be striving towards. The model villages will feature, among other things, access to electricity and clean water, play areas for children, and housing for vulnerable individuals. As education is at the heart of development, so too are the schools at the centre of these new model villages. Gikomero School is already working to build new classrooms, including four smart classrooms that seamlessly integrate technology, and bring water and electricity to the whole school. Other improvements are being made at the school as well, such as investing in early childhood education materials and revitalizing the use of technology. The leaders, teachers, and students are excited to see the leaps forward that are being made in their school and community.
Wellspring feels blessed to be part of Gikomero’s story as they move forward into this exciting new phase. We are excited for this model to serve as an inspiration to others, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for this school and this village!