Our ice cream shop will provide employment to eleven women from the co-operative here in Butare, but we offered English lessons to the whole group – and over 90 women took us up on it. The result has been six lessons a week (four in the mornings, two in the afternoons) for the past three months.
The begin with, the lessons were held in the shop itself. Not everything about the teaching was easy. It may be true that our students had to sit on the floor. We might have had to use the side of a cardboard box as a makeshift flipchart. Many of the students have had little in the way of formal education; some have not even had the chance to attain basic literacy. But we did have two points in our favour: firstly, we have a team of Rwandan interns who have taken a leading role in our teaching programme, helping to explain grammar and vocabulary in Kinyarwanda; secondly, there is the truly inspiring enthusiam and willingness to learn shown by our students.
Since construction work began in earnest, it has made the shop a bit too loud to double up as a classroom. Luckily, we’ve been granted the use of Butare’s University Club, where the modcons extend to such luxuries as chairs and even a blackboard!
The progress the women has made has been astonishing, and we hope it will prove useful, not only for the eventual employees of Inzozi Nziza, but for the whole group. Rwanda, a new member of the British Commonwealth, has made a commitment to embrace the English language – which means the knowledge our students have gained while sitting on the floor of a humble ice cream shop could turn out to be a very valuable commodity. All members of the co-op have the opportunity to gain from us a certificate in basic English proficiency… though of course you can’t have complete the course without first sitting the dreaded exams!