ATER Helps Organize Successful Access Microscholarship Conference

On Friday October 9th and Saturday October 10th, the Association of English Teachers in Rwanda (ATER) in partnership with the US Embassy in Kigali lead the English Access Microscholarship conference. The Access program is designed to provide English language skills to talented students, ages 13-20, from economically disadvantaged backgrounds through after-school classes and intensive sessions. Access gives participants English skills that may lead to better jobs and educational prospects. Participants also gain the ability to compete for and participate in future exchanges and study in the United States.

Friday’s session focused on teacher training. Participants were greeted by the Deputy Public Affairs Officer of the U.S Embassy, Rebecca Danis, who provided the opening remarks and noted the importance and value of the Access program for both the students who take part, as well as the U.S Embassy in Kigali. Following a warm-up activity by host Jean De Dieu Hakorimana, to familiarize attendees with Access terminology and goals, the core objectives of the program were covered in detail, along with the roles of the teachers and students in accomplishing these goals. After a short break, an enlightening panel discussion took place to note the challenges in teaching within the Access classroom. Former Access teachers Viven Hitiyaremye and Patrick provided useful pointers in overcoming potential difficulties with common challenges that Access teachers encounter. Following this discussion, Regional English Language Officer for the English Language Fellows ProgramCentral and East Africa, Scott Chiverton, appeared by satellite digital video conference (DVC) to discuss the running of successful intensive camps, community services, and enhancement activities for the teachers of Access programs. Finishing the morning session, another panel discussion took place, led by English language Fellow Leanne Cameron, concerning the role of teacher associations in promoting English language teaching, learning, and use of English. ATER panelists Richard Niyibigira, Juliet Muhoza , and Robert Palisin discussed the benefits of being a member, stressing the usefulness of sharing of resources among colleagues in promoting more effective teaching practices. Following a break for lunch, participants returned for a presentation on current methodologies in ESL teaching, conducted by Leanne Cameron, Jessica Griner, and Robert Palisin. A special focus was given to student-centered classrooms, with an activity demonstration of this type of approach done with both presenters and participants. To finish day one of the conference, Jean De Dieu Hakorimana returned to lead a discussion on practical activity-plan community service. Groups brainstormed sample projects that could be conducted with Access students to help connect with the community and provide leadership skills to the students.


Students welcoming conference participants to the conference hall

On Saturday the focus shifted to the students themselves in “Learners Taking the Lead”. Congregating at the Hilltop Hotel presentation hall, over 400 Access students, alumni, current and former teachers as well as Access hosting school officials were in session to hear from a variety of speakers discussing potential opportunities and resources, as well as inspirational stories from former Access students and community leaders. After a short introduction by the host of the festivities, Robert Palisin, Deputy Public Affairs Officer of the U.S Embassy Rebecca Danis once again provided the opening remarks, delivering an inspirational start to the day. The first presenters were YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative) Leadership Training speakers Marcel Mutsindashyaka and Jeanine Ampurile. With use of videos and personal stories, they provided advice and tips to students on achieving their dreams and making use of resources to make them happen.


YALI fellows, Jeanine Ampurile and Marcel Mutsindashyaka, sharing experience with conference participants.

Following a short break, USA Education Advisor for the U.S Embassy Jaya Duvvuri presented an enlightening discussion on the steps and procedures needed to study at universities and colleges in the United States. A working lunch followed the morning program. Attendants were encouraged to interact with one another as well as visit various tables set up representing Akilah, ATER, IRC, and Exchanges to learn more about these organizations and the opportunities they provide.




Students visiting different tables during break time.

The afternoon session started with the ‘Effective Running of English Clubs’, presented by Leanne Cameron. Students were shown the benefits and positive qualities of joining an English Club at the school or district where they reside.




Students had time to ask questions, give, ideas, comments and suggestions.

The finalpresentation of the day included the sharing of experiences from a current Access student, Bany Grace Bemenyimana, and alumni of the program, Marie Claire Abayisenga. Both provided inspiring words for the group of Access students in the audience and provided a fitting end to the day’s presentations.