I would like to introduce you to Ndateba Ivan, one of our Secondary 6 (“senior”) students. He is in his final year of traditional school in a section that focuses on Biology, Chemistry, and Geography. Ivan has been one of our sponsored students since beginning Secondary school in 2012. He has a couple of older siblings and a couple of younger siblings who are also past and present Global Capacity students.
Secondary school here in Rwanda can be very difficult for some students. During the first three years (S1 - S3), they can be learning up to 18 different subjects at one time. At the end of those first three years, they are required to participate in a national exam that tests them on as many as 13 of those subjects.WOW! Much of the time spent in the classroom consists of copying all of the notes that have been written on the chalkboard by the teacher and memorizing all of this information, without access to textbooks to supplement the material. With so many different subjects, it is not surprising that many students do not fare well on these exams.
Upon passing this national exam and moving ahead in the last three years of Secondary school, the students are placed in or choose a concentration of study. This is often based on the classes that they scored highest in for the national exam at the end of Secondary 3. The section is sometimes a combination of three subjects (i.e., Biology, Chemistry, Geography [BCG] or Computers, Economics, Mathematics [CEM]) or it could be something that is a more technical trade like Construction or Electricity or Hotel Management. In this upper level of Secondary school, the students can focus on their section as well as usually just a couple of additional courses like English and Entrepreneurship. Once again, at the end of Secondary 6, the students participate in a national exam that tests them on everything that they learned from S4 - S6. This is an extremely stressful undertaking as future possibilities can be dependent on these exam results.
Ivan struggled during the first few years of Secondary school but was promoted to continue into the upper levels in the section of Biology, Chemistry, and Geography. His overall average improved slightly with the focus on a smaller range of subjects, but he has struggled in the main courses for this section which are what his national exams will focus on at the end of this school year. When we met with him prior to the beginning of this school year, we could tell that he was discouraged and worried about his performance especially looking ahead to the national exam. So, we wondered if we might be able to get some assistance from the teachers at his school to provide some extra coaching (tutoring) for him. Thankfully, the headmaster and the teachers were agreeable and willing to spend some extra time with Ivan (and two other GC students at the same school) to help them improve in these main subjects (with some supplemental pay).
At the end of the first trimester, I was eager to see if there would be a noticeable difference on Ivan’s bulletin (report card). There was!! I was so proud of him as he had improved his scores compared to last year in his three main subjects…AND all other subjects, too. It seems that having some extra and individual attention has made a great difference for Ivan. Possibly more importantly, I think that Ivan is encouraged in knowing that we believe in him and that he is capable of improving even if it’s in small steps. I’m grateful if this is what he learns through this experience.
I'm grateful for your partnership in helping to encourage Ivan in ways that I hope will impact his confidence for the exams as well as hope for his future ahead!
Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.