The University of Rwanda integrates UNESCO guidance on distance learning into teacher training programmes

The College of Education, University of Rwanda has integrated the 2020 UNESCO publication “Ensuring effective distance learning during COVID-19 disruption: guidance for teachers” into its curriculum, thus far reaching over 3,700 pre-service and secondary school teachers. Based on this successful experience, UNESCO will support additional workshops as well as the development of training materials to be made available online as open educational resources. Workshops will be organized with the support of UNESCO Regional office for Eastern Africa in Nairobi and the Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO (RNCU).

As a first step, a teaching session called “Integration of ICT in Science and Mathematics teaching” for master students was delivered by Associate Professor Evode Mukama on 30 August 2021. During the session, students made six group presentations based on chapters 1 to 6 of the UNESCO publication, followed by questions and comments.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the urgency to prepare teachers for distance-learning context. The College of Education, University of Rwanda has been training pre-service and in-service teachers with a view to improving the quality of education, making information and communication technologies an integral part of the curriculum. By incorporating the UNESCO Guidelines into its course, the University is equipping its trainees with the skills to apply knowledge and ICT-based pedagogical skills in their practice of distance teaching, learning and assessment. Since May 2021, the course has reached about 3,600 trainees enrolled in the post-graduate course “Integration of ICT in teaching and learning” and about 100 teachers who attended a short-term summer programme.

Associate Professor Evode Mukama is conducting the course at the University of Rwanda together with nine academic staff members: “We often hear about ‘ICT in education’ or ‘distance learning’ and some people thought that the practice around these concepts was just a distraction in African schools. The UNESCO publication shows that it can work. This manual is inspirational, practical and user-friendly. Many teachers from Rwanda, including my students and I, read it and decided to live it.”

Based on specific contexts and needs, the UNESCO publication “Ensuring effective distance learning during COVID-19 disruption: guidance for teachers” provides relevant guidance for teachers and educators from pre-primary to upper-secondary level to facilitate students’ effective distance learning, accompanied by relevant case studies, and curated resources that are relevant to distance learning models. It features a taxonomy to assess the functionalities of online platforms. The publication summarizes four categories (online, TV-based, radio-based and print-based) and eight sub-categories of distance learning under low-tech, high-tech, or blended tech contexts. It presents a set of matrices to analyse the key features of learning activities under each category, and identifies the precise needs for teachers.

The publication is available in ArabicChineseEnglishFrenchPortuguese and Spanish and will soon be made available in Russian and Farsi.

UNESCO will further collaborate with the College of Education, University of Rwanda to scale up the workshop to reach more teachers in the country and in the region, including by making the training resources developed by the University available online, in both English and French. In addition to Rwanda, UNESCO is working with partners to develop workshops for Egypt, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe.

UNESCO has long been supporting Rwanda with several initiatives in the area of technology in education, including through the first phase of the Korea Funds-in-Trust (KFIT) project “ICT transforming education in Africa” from 2016 to 2019. Among other achievements, the project facilitated the strengthening of teachers’ capacities in the pedagogical use of ICT, the establishment of an e-assessment platform, the development of OER and other ICT-related policies, and the enhancement of the readiness of the University of Rwanda to adopt open and distance learning.