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Raising educational standards in Rwanda: John and Sandra

John and Sandra are education volunteers supporting work to improve teaching in Rwanda Tim Maynard

John and Sandra are education volunteers supporting work to improve teaching in Rwanda

A new challenge

John and Sandra decided that they wanted to use their experiences of teaching in the UK to strength Rwandan education at the system level – they’re able to do that in their work at the Rwanda Education Board, which looks after the day-to-day functioning of the education system nationwide.

“As a headteacher for ten years I always saw Ofsted as the Dark Side! My experience being on the receiving end of inspections is helpful. I can make suggestions, like on ways of governing,” says John.

As for Sandra, a career working in special needs education, qualification as a teaching advisor for the visually impaired and experiences working in both specialist and mainstream schools prepared her well for this Rwanda adventure:

“It means I’ve been able to help volunteers here. For example, I supported writing a teacher training module with someone working with the Rwanda Union of the Blind. I’m currently writing standards on inclusion, which I have a Masters in.”

A chance to really make an impact

Children at Murama nursery school in Murama district, Rwanda Tim Maynard

Children at Murama nursery school in Murama district, Rwanda

On their first placement, John and Sandra worked with a school in Tanzania that aimed to tackle poverty through education – so both have relished the opportunity to make changes on a broad, systemic level in Rwanda.

“The opportunity to come here and work with a department developing a system whilst introducing a brand new curriculum is really exciting,” says John.

“I was doing school, three terms a year, as a routine. [Volunteering is] a completely different experience for us,” he adds.

Volunteering as a couple

John and Sandra feel they’ve been able to complement each other in their work – and volunteering has been good for them as a couple too.

Sandra and John Ford are a married couple volunteering to support education in Rwanda. Pictured in their home in in Kigali Tim Maynard

Sandra and John Ford at their home in in Kigali

“I know about inclusion but I’m not good at putting the inspection tool together – that’s where John comes in. I help him with the integrated side of inclusion in the lesson plan,” Sandra says.

She adds, “It’s been amazing spending so much time together really. People get to our age and when their kids have left home they might think ‘what’s left?’ Volunteering has been such a positive experience for us.”

Find out more about volunteering as a couple 

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