Eco-Mentor Training, Rwanda

Written by Lisa Witherden

Janet Wilkinson (CITW Programme Manager) and Lisa Witherden (CITW Environmental Education Resource Developer) headed for Rwanda at the end of October to run Eco-Mentor Training in the region. Our wonderful Rwandan Team – Ingrid Baas (CITW Programme Coordinator) and Aline Umutoni (CITW Community Coordinator) – organised the week of training that saw us travel through most of this unique country, visiting three primary schools.

Leaving early on Monday morning from Kigali, we travelled to Akayange Primary School. This little school, with its 248 students and nine teachers, set in a prospering garden, is located just outside Akagera National Park’s North Gate. Apart from the teachers, we were joined by two Community Officers from African Parks, who are working on various community projects in and around Akagera National Park.

Akayange is new to the CITW Family, and so our first afternoon of training was an introduction to the CITW programme. Day two of training was spent discussing the ins and outs of how the CITW curriculum is structured, with a practical lesson on Climate Change, demonstrating our lesson plans. We conducted this lesson in the school grounds, just as they are held down south in our Eco-Club Programme. Janet and I were very impressed by the trees which Principal Emmanuel Kanyarutoki planted with his school. It made the lesson all that more relevant, as it touches on the concept of climate change and ideas to combat it – one of those being to plant trees! The enthusiasm and excitement from the teachers was wonderful to see, as they asked pertinent questions and got involved in the lessons.

On to Bisate Primary School just outside of Volcanoes National Park for a bit of a refresher with our teachers. Bisate Primary has been running Eco-Clubs for the last year and a half, with Jean Damascene heading things up as our Eco-Mentor (read this bio here – what an inspiring young man!). We ran through the basics of CITW, before working through a few Eco-Club Curriculum Lessons. The Mentors loved having the chance to play, taking turns to wear blindfolds to ‘Meet a Tree’. Another highlight was meeting seven of the scholarship students from Bisate Secondary School. Mama Genet (Janet) took the time to get to know each of the children, sitting in a circle discussing their dreams for the future and what they’ve learnt in their Eco-Clubs. (Meet our Scholarship Students)

Our last school was Gisunzu Primary School, also new to CITW. This school is located close to Gishwati Mukura National Park – an island of magnificent indigenous forest. We had a full day of training with six eager teachers, who really took to the CITW Eco-Club curriculum. They took their time to understand how the lessons work, and loved the problem solving lesson, taking time in their lunch break to figure out how to untangle the ‘Human Knot’ they made by interlacing their hands. The teachers were also intrigued by the lesson on pangolins, with most of them not knowing what a pangolin is. We were blown away by these teachers and their interest and keenness to learn.

A huge thank you to our Eco-Mentors for giving their time for the training! We look forward to watching CITW continue to grow in Rwanda.