Empowering girls to achieve in Rwanda
Photo: Azeb Tadesse, African Studies Center.

Empowering girls to achieve in Rwanda

A $1 million grant has been awarded to the UCLA African Studies Center (ASC) for a capacity-building partnership with the Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) of Rwanda.

By Peggy McInerny

International Institute, UCLA, March 25, 2013—Too few girls are completing secondary school in Rwanda, which means that even fewer are enrolling in and graduating from teacher-training programs there. With insufficient numbers of qualified female teachers in the Rwandan education system, young girls are seeing fewer inspiring role models. Plus they frequently receive less attention than boys in the classroom because teachers are not trained to draw girls into discussions dominated by boys. Completing higher education enables women to earn far more over their lifetimes than women with secondary education or less, and makes them more likely to take active roles in society.

Helping girls achieve more—in education, in work, and in society—is the goal of a recent US$1 million, two-and-a-half year (November  2012–June 2015) grant awarded to the UCLA African Studies Center (ASC) for a capacity-building partnership with the Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) of Rwanda. The partnership’s main goals are to help KIE develop the human and institutional resources to:

  • increase the outreach, recruitment, and retention of young women at KIE and its associated Teacher Training Institutes (TTIs), including from secondary schools traditionally under-represented in university admissions to teaching programs; 
  • offer existing teachers and university education students training in gender-sensitive instruction at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels;
  • update the Rwandan teacher training curriculum to promote gender equity and female empowerment;
  • conduct and disseminate research on the barriers to women’s enrollment in teacher training programs, as well as to their overall advancement in Rwandan society; and
  • promote gender equity in research in Rwandan higher education.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through Higher Education for Development (HED), the partnership is one of five international higher education partnerships funded by USAID in Armenia, Paraguay, Rwanda and South Sudan under a broader effort known as the Women’s Leadership Program. Each partnership targets specific development sectors, but all seek to support national and local development goals that promote gender equality and female empowerment.

“The goal of the university-to-university collaboration is to achieve a sustainable impact on how girls learn and how teachers teach in the classroom in Rwanda,” remarked Françoise Lionnet, Director of the UCLA Center for African Studies, “thus inspiring girls to continue their education and become teachers. Although it is focused on education, the partnership ultimately seeks to empower women in all spheres of life.” Dr. Lionnet is also Professor of French & Francophone Studies, Comparative Literature and Gender Studies. She noted that, in addition to implementing this project, the Center intends to leverage the grant to raise additional funds to support the various partnership activities beyond the award cycle.

Founded in 1999, KIE is a teacher training institute dedicated to becoming a center of excellence for Rwanda and the entire East and Central Africa Region. The Institute’s four faculties (Education, Science, Arts and Languages, and Social Sciences and Business Studies) offer bachelor of education degrees in specific disciplines, together with a limited number of master’s degrees. Its goal is to graduate professionally trained teachers with experience in learner-centered instruction to fill crucial gaps in Rwandan primary and secondary schools.

Partnership activities kicked off in January of this year when project Co-Director Azeb Tadesse and project Advisory Committee Member Claudia Mitchell-Kernan traveled to Kigali, where they met with KIE partners, conducted start-up meetings and completed the partnership baseline assessment. A second round of activities will take place in May, when KIE managers and staff come to UCLA to attend workshops organized by ASC. Workshop topics will include mainstreaming gender, developing institutional capacity, bringing equity to instruction and research in education, and community outreach. The official public launch of the project is tentatively scheduled to take place in Kigali in late September–early October 2013.

Over the course of the collaboration, KIE staff will co-develop presentations on gender issues; learn to conduct outreach in schools and the community; and work with local districts to develop family-focused gender awareness programs, an academic support program for female students and mechanisms for strengthening institutional capacity. Stay tuned for more news on this exciting project.

UCLA’s African Studies Center (ASC) is one of the oldest and most distinguished research, teaching and outreach centers on Africa in the United States. It is dedicated to the production and dissemination of knowledge about Africa, ranging from cutting-edge research in the social, human and natural sciences, to public outreach, to K–12 pedagogical reform. ASC is also home to African Arts, the only journal of its kind, and the Marcus Garvey Papers. The Center not only coordinates Africanist resources, it also generates critical dialogue and debates about Africa and serves a dynamic international community of scholars, educators and activists who are pursuing a shared commitment to Africanist research within and beyond the continent itself. Since its founding, the African Studies Center has played a role in making a difference in Africa, from leading educational reform in the post-colonial phase to social engagement with the 1980s anti-apartheid movement and educational partnerships today.  

USAID administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.usaid.gov.

HED mobilizes the expertise and resources of the higher education community to address global development challenges. HED manages a competitive awards process to access expertise with the higher education community in coordination with the American Council on Education (ACE), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). For more information about HED, visit www.hedprogram.org.

Published: Monday, March 25, 2013