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Education East Africa

Education East Africa


In Rwanda we have a non-governmental organisation called Support to Primary Education Rwanda (SPER), and so in Rwanda Education East Africa is SPER.

Rwanda adopted English as a second language in 2009; before that the second language was French. Many teachers are still struggling to learn English and that affects their teaching of it.

English is taught as a subject from Primary 1 (P1). However, in P4 all subjects are taught in English, and so without a strong foundation in English pupils are excluded from their own education system.

From our twenty-two years of working in primary schools in Tanzania, we have found a feasible solution to this problem of teaching English to pupils when teachers themselves are not confident in their subject knowledge.

Our solution

We use a course of books called New Original English Course (NOEC). These books guide the teachers through the sentence patterns and structures of English, and give plenty of instructions and explanations about how to teach the language items. In this way the teachers are learning on-the-job, and the pupils are learning good English. Before, we tell you more about how this works, please take 13 minutes to look at a video Katy recently made which shows our work in action.

The video first shows classes before introducing the NOEC. This is how most primary school pupils are taught English in East Africa. In the second half of the video you will see teachers and pupils using our NOEC books, with accompanying wall charts. Notice how much easier it is for everyone when there is a real life connection with the words they are asked to learn. You will see surtitles and subtitles to help explain what you are seeing.

Please take time to sit back and enjoy the video:

No other education charity delivers such tangible results for the community it serves.


How does it work?

The Teacher’s Books have instructions and explanations printed in their own language, Kinyarwanda, so that they can be fully understood. The target language they are to teach is printed in red type. The Teacher’s Books provide many varied activities for the pupils, and each activity shows the language used with proper meaning. The pupils enjoy being able to use the language, and they love the wall charts and Pupil’s Books which have pictures of people and objects to which they can relate in their East African setting.


What do we do?

We were allocated four government schools in the Gasabo District of Rwanda by the Mayor of that district.  We now work in five government primary schools, and spend one day a week in each school. In that day we observe English teachers using the NOEC books, we team-teach with the teachers, we teach demonstration lessons, and we give very constructive feedback on the lessons we observe. We also have a session with all teachers of English, although in three schools the session is with all the teachers in the school, and help them to improve their English and their teaching methods.

We are focusing on teachers teaching the very first year, P1, but we observe and help all teachers teaching English in lower primary (P1 to P3) and in upper primary too (P4 to P6).

When we started our work teachers were using Kinyarwanda in the classroom most of the time, and translating nearly everything. They were teaching by rote with very little meaning. Now, the teachers have begun to understand the stages of a lesson, and are demonstrating new language items so that their pupils see the meaning. Then the teachers test the pupils’ understanding before they continue to teach the pupils to say the new language and then use it.  This is bringing excellent results.

 The teachers are really relishing using our books and materials. Our work with the teachers and, in turn their work with the pupils, goes from strength to strength. The teachers are noticeably pleased with their own development in both teaching methods and their knowledge of English, and coupled with their pupils’ impressive progress we have an upward spiral of motivation and enjoyment.


The bigger picture

In November 2016 Damian, the head of the Teacher Development Department of the Rwanda Education Board (REB), resigned from his post, and came to join our work at SPER. This was confirmation indeed that our work was recognised and worthwhile.  We are now working to advocate for some change.

We have a memorandum of understanding with the Mayor of Gasabo District for us to carry out our work and with provision for expansion. We have a memorandum of understanding with the Rwanda Education Board allowing the use of the NOEC materials. We have met the Minister for Education, the Minister of State for primary and secondary education, the head of the teacher-training colleges, senators, politicians, professors at universities and the head of the Language Academy.

We have seen where some changes are needed. The new competence-based-curriculum is proving difficult for the teachers to implement, and we have written papers and had discussions with education officials about the content of the English curriculum. We are also advocating for a different approach in P1 and P2. These are the years when the pupils need to gain firm foundations in mother tongue literacy and numeracy. The introduction of a foreign language needs to take careful account of the levels of mother-tongue speaking and writing. Our NOEC has a two-year introductory programme which we are hoping to introduce for P1 and P2. At the moment we have skipped that introductory programme in order to fit the curriculum. That introductory programme is a language awareness course, and comprises much work examining words in Kinyarwanda which are similar to English words, and introduces pupils to native English speakers and the countries of Canada, Australia, England and America. It provides much development of thinking skills, and motivates pupils to continue to learn English.

"We are pleased to be working in Rwanda with our team of dedicated teachers, and officials who are concerned about the improvements needed in primary education and who are willing to enter serious discussions with us about the feasible solutions which we are offering".

Katy Allen-Mtui, Director – Education East Africa

Katy during a teacher-training session with primary school teachers using our NOEC books.


Find out more



Charity details

Registered address
PO Box 434,Apartment 2
CT14 4BU

0300 323 9944

Charity number

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