Association of Teachers of English in Rwanda (ATER)

English Language Teaching Conference

“Empower the Teacher, Empower the Classroom”

4-5 June 2015

For two days in Muhanga, Rwnada, English language teachers from all corners of the nation

participated in a conference organized by the Association of Teachers of English in Rwanda and

Rwanda’s English Language Fellow, sponsored through the U.S. Department of State and the U.S.

Embassy in Kigali, and graciously hosted by the Institut Catholique de Kabgayi. 145 primary,

secondary, and university-level teachers participated in the event, which featured special guests

included organizations operating in Rwanda, such as Akilah Women’s Institute, the British Council,

Peace Corps in Rwanda, and several of the nation’s best universities and secondary schools. Guests

from further afield, including neighbor states of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda

were also represented through presenters from Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de Bukavu and STIR

Uganda, respectively.  Significantly, English Language Fellows from six other African countries,

including Uganda, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, and Niger, were able to attend and present

their own experience working in their diverse contexts. The planners were also happy to welcome

two teachers who traveled from Burundi for the conference. As Burundi is currently experiencing

violent political turmoil surrounding elections, the arrival of these two teachers was unprecedented.

Concurrent sessions allowed for 26 presenters to deliver practical or research-based talks relevant

to the many facets of English teaching in Rwanda. Presentations ranged from policy-related sessions

on curriculum development to classroom activities that could be used to improve students’

pronunciation in English. Plenary sessions, bringing together the entire group, included

presentations from Regional English Language Officer for the East Africa region, Scott Chiverton,

and Hillary Sheridan, English Programmes Manager at the British Council in Kigali. Participants were

also able to engage with two discussion panels, the first focused on English Clubs and featuring

several Rwandan student representatives from secondary and university English clubs in Busogo,

Musanze, and Kigali. The final panel, held before the close of conference on Friday, featured the

topic “Developing a Culture of Litearcy,” and included representatives from EDC’s Literacy,

Language, and Learning Initiative and Save the Children, along with a presenter discussing the

African Storybook Project, which encourages Africans to tell their own stories in the mother tongue.

Conference attendees provided constructive and complimentary feedback, which the organizers

hope to use in planning for the next event. One teacher reflected very positively on the event: “This

is a great experience for me. I enjoyed others’ experiences and good practices. I really like this

theme “Empower the Teacher, Empower the Classroom” because when teacher is skilled he/she can

make his/her classroom successful. Please keep up! This two-day conference jogged our minds!”

The conference was sponsored by ATER, with generous support from the Public Affairs Section of

the U.S. Embassy in Kigali. The planners hope for a larger audience and more presenters next year,

providing more opportunities for teachers in Rwanda to take charge of their own professional

development and share their experiences with their colleagues. According to Kanyankole Rukundo,

ATER President, a team will be put in place to work on funding and venue, as well as start to draft call for

abstracts, recruit a team to review abstracts, and prepare ATER presenters.