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Rwanda Puts Emphasis on Learning Through Play Methodology

by Daniel Sabiiti
4:01 pm

Play can stimulate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual learning for children

Rwanda plans to have a national learning through play policy framework that will inform and guide the implementation of early childhood education (ECE) and Competence-based Curriculum (CBC), officials have said.

At the request of the Education Ministry, the policy framework is being developed by the Education Development Trust (EDT) in collaboration with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)-Rwanda and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)-Rwanda.

The seven-pillar policy framework will guide the embedment of play-based learning within the school’s curriculum and activities both at the central and local level.

The pillar includes: teacher development; curriculum delivery; assessing learners, school leadership and management; teaching and learning materials; evaluation; communication and advocacy.

“We developed a concept note and guide last year and now the team is doing consultation with the play partners and drafting different aspects of the framework,” said Sarah Challoner, the “Twigire Mumikino Rwanda” (Learn through Playing) project Implementation Lead at VSO-Rwanda.

Sarah Challoner

Challoner was speaking at a media workshop, held June 4, 2024, aimed at building skills and knowledge of participants on the importance of play based learning in pre-primary education,

Amy Barnecutt, the Principal Consultant at EDT said that the framework has received contributions from different partners (including the line Ministry and Rwanda education board, university and school’s representative, civil society organizations- such as Teach Rwanda) and with fingers crossed, hopefully it will be out by next week.

Amy Barnecutt

The framework will come at the time when Rwanda will join the rest of the world to celebrate the inaugural celebration of the International Day of Play (June 11th, 2024) as newly adopted by the United Nations UN general assembly.

The day will be designed to champion and protect children’s right to play.

Global research (2024 Lego Play Well Study) surveying more than 25,000 children across 36 countries reveals that as many as 73% of children don’t believe adults take play – and how it can help them learn – seriously.

With only 30% of adults aware that play is a fundamental birthright adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1989 the UN says there is an urgent need to “put play back on the agenda.”

Only 30% of adults aware that play is a fundamental in stimulating learning for children

Even though there is growing evidence extolling the importance of play for children’s learning, enabling them to develop cognitively, socially, emotionally, physically as well as acquisition of creativity and curiosity, which are key attributes for life-long learning, there is evidence that this concept is yet to take root in Rwandan schools and communities

In collaboration with the LEGO Foundation, UNICEF Rwanda, Rwanda Basic Education Board (REB), are collaborating with Inspire, Educate and Empower Rwanda (IEE) to implement the Learning through Play (LtP) programme, aimed at using playful teaching and learning pedagogical approaches in Rwandan primary schools, for improved learning outcomes for the children while implementing the Competence-based Curriculum (CBC).

As of 2023, 832 Sector -based Mentor Trainers (SBMTs) and 2,068 School-based Mentors (SBMs) have been trained, and in turn they have trained 48,783 primary school teachers from primary schools across the country, who are further being supported to effectively implement play-based learning for primary school children.

Yonah Nyundo

UNICEF-Rwanda Education Officer, Yonah Nyundo says that they have cultivated the tradition of integrating play in learning with various teachers and local leaders trained across the country because this methodology is very important in promoting learning.

“Most of us have agreed that play is not just only for childhood, it is not just play, but rather a tool for learning. Here we are consciously bringing play to the center stage and saying it is a mechanism for children’s learning,” Nyundo said.

Lead Play Partners:

Through the five year Twigire Mumikino Rwanda project (2021-2025) funded by the Lego Foundation at a tune of $4.2 million, VSO is strengthening Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) systems through deeper integration of ‘Learning Through Play (LtP) for 3-6-year-olds to become creative, engaged and resilient lifelong learners.

This has reached 600+ schools ((200,000+ children) over 2,000 teachers 1,600 ECE teachers, 1,200 school leaders heads, 600 ECE mentors, 145,000 Parents and more than 600 government officials, but also scaling up 10 to all 30 districts by 2025.

Rachel Walmsley (middle) sharing the benefits of using model schools in learning through play

Others like Teach Rwanda, Umuhuza Rwanda and Right2Play have also engaged in creating learning through play programs and modules which use technology (basic coding skills) and hands-on- play innovations to improve the early learning among children below 18.

Rachel Walmsley, the Country Representative Teach Rwanda says that using model schools in rural Rwanda (Muhanga district) they are implementing the learn through play where the entire school curriculum is based on children learn by doing to stimulate the physical, social and emotional development of a child and this model is being share with other Early Childhood Education (ECE) centers.

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