The New Times (Kigali)

12 January 2013

Rwanda: Changing School - Why Helping New Students Adapt Is Essential

Educationists say helping new students adapt to new school environment is an important prerequisite for achieving education goals as this impacts on academic performance.

Barely a week since schools opened for the beginning of the academic year, several survivor students find themselves in new school environment following abrupt transfers. The New Times' Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti looks into how students are coping in new schools.

Iqra, 13, a second year student at Lycée Notre Dame de Citeaux in Kigali is a Pakistani fresh from the Arab country. When her family came to Rwanda family four months ago, she was enrolled in the school, but what came in her mind first was how she would cope in a new milieu, and worse still, communicate with others.

"I was really afraid of starting my first time to school in Rwanda as a new student but very eager to know how the school environment, especially where I was supposed to go to study. My concerns were about how the Rwandan education is and how I could communicate with others to finally acquaint with them," said Iqra.

She said on reaching the school, she was welcomed and given special attention as she was from abroad and knew nothing about Rwanda.

"I was well received by the school and they connected me to other students. The students are now my friends, they talk to me like my sisters," she says. "Teachers are friendly and easily communicate other than where I used to study. I have now started learning Kinyarwanda and I hope soon I will be speaking it."

She describes education here as not different from her country, but says the standard is higher.

"The studies are going on well, but the standard is high, I am trying to catch up with others, classmates are helping me so much," she said.

Iqra and her Pakistani background aside, even Rwandan students changing schools find it difficult to cope with a new environment.

A case of the locals

Jean d'Amour Kubwimana is a Senior Three student at Groupe Scolaire Rugando in Kigali City. He says he found it difficult to get accustomed to studying at a new school.

"When I changed school, it was difficult for me to cope with the environment. Every thing looked abnormal but I tried to connect with my colleagues, school leaders also played a big role to support."

According to Sister Helen Nayituriki, the head teacher of Lycée Notre Dame de Citeaux, it is important to help new students cope with new environment.

"Normally it gets difficult for any person to cope with environment whenthey change, it also applies to the new students when they come here to study for the first time," said Nayituriki.

"And we help them adapt as quick as possible. It is one and the most task for school leaders, when the schools are ready to start, we also get ready to welcome the new students as well as former students, we help them feel comfortable with the new environment," she said, adding that the new comers are also helped by their class mates to adjust accordingly.

She advises parents to help their children get some basic information about their schools, saying it is not wise to send a child to a school they are completely bleak about or the parents do not even know.

She said the schools should have an induction period and mobilise old pupils to keep helping their new classmates.

Emmanuel Rubayiza, a father of three from Kanombe in Kigali, said it has been rare to inform his children about the school they went for studies, but argues that it can be more helpful once it is done as students would not get trouble in their new schools.

"I have done it for one child when I went with him to school as I wanted him to get a new school," said Rubayiza.

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