Monday, 20 June 2011

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness...

 In the usual fashion on Friday morning at 8.10 I found out I was going on a school trip at 8.30 across the other side of the country. The trip was to a model school for including children with disabilities with an NGO called Handicap International. Now if I thought my welcome at the airport when I arrived was impressive it was nothing in comparison to this one. We had a whole welcoming committee and ceremony! The children sang and danced for us and we were shown around their classrooms and resource centre.

I have to say I was truly inspired. On the face of it this looked like an ordinary school, just like any other rural school in Rwanda. It was a long way off the main road and not in a wealthy town suburb. Some of the classrooms still had mud walls and class sizes were big. But what made this school different was the way that all children were celebrated and included in the school, regardless of whether they had a disability or not. Disabled children in the school were asked questions in class just like and any other child. Some of the disabled children at the school were brilliant dancers and they were encouraged to show their talents in front of everybody. The staff were warm and caring towards all the children there and the children themselves seemed so calm and happy.

 It just goes to show that its not money and its not fancy buildings that make a good school but creativity, a caring ethos and good leadership. They had the most wonderful little resource centre with the Braille alphabet made out of bottle tops and a map of Rwanda made out of peas and beans for visually impaired children. I made my second impromptu speech in two days in front of about a thousand people (its funny how you kind of get used to doing this!) and I told them all what a great place it was. When they gave us an amazing singing send off I was close to tears, if only all children here could go to a school like this, it shows such hope.

This weekend I also went with Trisha to visit Joan, another vso volunteer who lives high up on a mountain top in Byumba. It was very interesting to see another part of the country and we had a great time chatting and catching up. We walked to the TTC and Joan had done a great job of making rice sacks for teaching her students, some of which I’m going to copy for sure! We also had a good wander around, enjoying the views and we met some very cute children keen to have their picture taken!

Our welcome at the school

These children were more interested in me than their lesson!
 Bottle top Braille, an idea I am already in the process of copying

 The children watch their peers dance

The hills of Byumba

Cute children collecting firewood in Byumba

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