Early this week, I told my colleagues that there was something they needed to discover at one school in Gasabo district, City of Kigali.
September 30, the last day of the month, we drove to the institution, Kigali Parents’ School which has more than 2000 pupils.
Our focus of the day was the new comers though: some 90 children from Baby class streams who were there since five days.
First thing when you meet the children, a busy class tells you that learning is no joke; the 2-3-year-old children are all busy with toys. Boys are mainly “driving” either a truck or a police van on the table.
Some girls gently touch toys with beautiful fur while others are writing on drawing boards.
In another class, the children are learning to hold a pencil to start writing experience, while in the third class it’s break time when the children take what they have packed or the school food.
Whichever activity that is occupying them, the children will find time for you; including watching carefully the new objects that you are introducing in their classroom, like the camera and other equipment.
Those media tools are strange objects because in their class, the teacher who is essentially a woman has drawn and hanged on the four walls objects that they learn in class; the food and kitchen items, avocadoes and other fruits, shapes, birds, animals, hills, among others.
Their angelic facial expression in all this will communicate a sincere love to you and will make you spend the best day ever.
To sum it up, their hospitality will tell you that you are at the right place.
The children hail from different backgrounds, where families have different approaches of child upbringing, which, to some people may explain how teaching a baby class is quite a difficult task.
However, Mary Uwicyeza, the Baby Class coordinator at Kigali Parents’ School will shock you.
Twenty-seven (27) years in education, half of which at Kigali Parents’ School, Baby Class, Uwicyeza says that she cannot imagine her life outside a baby class, because being by children’s side is the longest and best story of her life.
“One day, just as a senior 4 student, I realised that an investor had opened a nursery school in my neighbourhood. I went to see children and only God knows how it was difficult to leave them. But this came with a mixed reaction wondering how teachers could handle them,” Uwicyeza said.
“My parents who had wanted me to be a medical doctor in the end were convinced that my life is null if I don’t see children. They accepted to enrol me in a teacher training college.”
After graduation, she said, I started my education career and I never regret my decision.
“I like children and whatever they do makes me happy,” she said.
Teacher Uwicyeza shared some experiences that came from her students and that shaped how she deals with children and helped her career to grow.
“One day, I had a child who refused to go to the toilet for a short call. I begged that she does it in vain. After a couple of minutes, she did the short call and apologised to me as if she had done a bad thing,” she recalls.
“I encouraged her and said it was the right thing but the case gave me an idea that sometimes, guardians abuse children when they ease themselves. A responsible parent should watch everything that other people are doing for their children, whether good or bad.”
A busy day at Kigali Parents’ School
Back to Kigali Parents’ School where she has spent the biggest part of her life since the last 14 years, Uwicyeza said that nursery school requires a teacher to wake up early birds.
Some students come as early as 06h45 AM, and the teacher has to come earlier than this to receive them pending the start of the day’s program, 7h20AM.
Basically, the baby class will concentrate the core lessons in the morning before break. After breakfast, 10h30AM, the children relax, some sleep, others play until 12h30 when parents come to pick them up.
“We try to create a home, away from home. Basically, you don’t ask children to do core work after eating,” Uwicyeza said.
Some children go to day care after lunch where parents can come for them in evening.
Meanwhile, every class comes with challenges, but Uwicyeza and her team take it easy because they know how to respond to every case.
At the beginning of the year children don’t want to stay at school; they will cry whenever parents leave them.
“You will have to sing for them, treat them with toys, among others. We do love and treat them as if we are their parents. With time they love us back and no stress,” she said.
In other scenarios, some children do not know how to feed themselves. The teacher and her assistant will feed them one by one until they finish their meal.
It even happens for children to pee on themselves. The teacher will change their clothes and wash the ones that were spoiled.
“We have all it takes to make children feel loved, secured and comfortable,” she said.
“In some families, children end up telling their mothers: if you do this to me, I will tell my teacher and she will beat you up. In other families, parents call us at night when a child is having issues, and we bring them back to order.”
Uwicyeza emphasized that their job requires passion and love for children, but if anything, she said, rearing children is the best job ever.
“In fact, we deal with angels,” she said.
Skills that carry values
According to Goreth Gatsinzi, the Headmistress for Nursery School at Kigali Parents’ School, the school has three classes in nursery, including baby class, middle class and top class.
Their language of instruction is French which continues until Primary 3. They shift to English as language of instruction since Primary 4.
“We start with activities that prepare them to join primary education. For example, in mathematics we have pre-math, whereby we teach them to while interacting with objects instead of figures. We also have pre-reading. We make these children sort the same objects, same colours, objects with same shape, same size, among others,” she said.
She added that they teach children values instead of concentrating on languages only. Which helps them even in life at large.
“You will realize that some students from some schools can speak but their speech is not guided. We teach them to respect each other, to pray, among other values,” Gatsinzi explained.
From four children to five hundred children in nursery school only, teacher Gorethi is happy of Kigali Parents’ School growth.
“We started in 1995 with six staff members and four children. The school kept developing. Ours is a job of passion,” she said while encouraging fellow teachers to handle children as their own.