"Professional learning networks help me improve my day-to-day work"

VVOB Rwanda and its partners support head teachers in their continuous professional development. Head teachers take part in an initial training on effective school leadership and come together in professional learning networks (PLNs) to share knowledge and experiences about school-related issues. They learn from each other and improve their school leadership competences.

Ms Nadine Umurerwa (middle) is Sector Education Officer of Rugendabari sector in Rwanda. She coaches the PLN for head teachers in this sector.

Ms Assumpta Yakaragiye (right) is the head teacher of Rugendabari primary school. She has been participating in PLNs since 2015.

A double interview.

Sharing challenges and experiences

Ms Umurerwa: “As Sector Education Officer, I coordinate education activities at sector level. I support and inspect head teachers in providing quality education. I was trained by VVOB to coach professional learning networks of head teachers in my sector. This training was very relevant, because it helped me to effectively lead meetings with head teachers by assessing the challenges they face in their daily work, and by encouraging them to share their experiences. The challenges they encounter are often similar. Sharing experiences can improve the leadership competences of head teachers, because possible resolutions can pop up and strengthen the head teachers to overcome the challenges they face at school on their own.”
Ms Yakaragiye: “The head teachers choose the topic of the PLN session together. In doing so, we are sure that the main problems in our schools are discussed. We identify and analyse a common problem, look for root causes, and end with resolutions to be implemented in our school. After the meeting, I contextualise the conclusions of the session with my teachers and discuss strategies for implementation.”

Reducing dropout through PLNs

Ms Yakaragiye: “In my school, the main problems are low student performance and high dropout rates. I learned new techniques in the PLN to bring back students that dropped out of school. I used to write to parents, but I understood from my colleagues that it is better to involve the local authorities.”
Ms Umurerwa: “The local authorities and the different schools of our sector did a campaign to decrease dropout. Together we made house-to-house visits to reach each learner who dropped out of school.”
Ms Yakaragiye: “We visit students at home to discuss their reasons for dropping out. Together with the parents and local authorities, we try to find a solution so that every child who dropped out can come back. We also track the students’ attendance better so we can act before the child drops out of school. Teachers take attendance every morning. If a student is absent, he or she must report to me the next day. Before the PLN, I didn’t know the names and details of students who dropped out. Now I do. There is a proper follow-up.”

Improving practices

Ms Umurerwa: “Before the training on professional learning networks, I used to behave as an inspector of the head teachers. In meetings, I told them what they should do. Now, the head teachers participate actively in the meetings and conclusions are made by the whole group. There is trust and a strong relationship among head teachers.”
Ms Yakaragiye: “The professional learning network has really helped me improve my day-to-day work, as well as my school leadership practices. We also use the PLN method at our school now, during our teacher meetings for example. On a more personal level, I struggled with writing monthly reports. Since I joined the learning network, I manage school data better and collect data for self-evaluation. I have more insight in preparing the school budget, in the action plan of the school and in school values. My wish is that professional learning networks reach all schools in Rwanda.”

The LOPE programme 2014-2016 aimed to improve the quality of basic education in Rwanda. The programme is a cooperation between the Ministry of Education, Rwanda Education Board, University of Rwanda – College of Education and VVOB Rwanda. LOPE promoted effective school leadership and prepared future teachers in primary education for a learner-centred pedagogy. The programme was financed by Belgium.

VVOB Rwanda has also provided expertise to the Belgian Development Agency on the reform of Uganda’s support supervision system of the teacher training institutes.