Saturday, February 25, 2012

Beginning English for Judges

As an education volunteer in Rwanda, I teach for only 15 hours each week. To critics of the Peace Corps, this may not be surprising. Many volunteers have returned to the US saying that, though they were ready to help, their country did not have anything for them to do. This is not the case in Rwanda. The 15 hours per week that I teach is a limit suggested by the Rwandan government in order to give volunteers time to work on secondary projects.



Our goal as Peace Corps volunteers is to help our host country by increasing capacity-- building the skills necessary for development. Since Rwanda changed its national language to English as recently as 2008, one of the main concerns of the Rwandan government is bringing the country's people up to speed. English for Judges is an excellent example of  a secondary project that targets a sector of the population outside of secondary schools. The goal of the program is to  train courtroom staff in English in a context that is helpful in their profession. In other words, we focus specifically on legal English.

The pilot program for English for Judges began a year ago with just a handful of volunteers teaching at the supreme court in Kigali. Two of those volunteer instructors, Ellie Frazier and Christa Maiorano, took the charge of expanding the program to better meet Rwanda's need for English proficiency in the courts. They partnered with USAID for funding, started recruiting first-year volunteers from my group, and began working out the logistics for more classes and additional cities. 


Today, the program operates in 4 major cities in Rwanda and has over 40 teachers, including alternates who can teach a class if someone can't make it. The classes in each city are divided into four levels of proficiency, with the higher levels using English to analyze case studies and justify legal decisions. A teaching rotation ensures that court staff can have class 3 weekends per month, while individual volunteers are not leaving their villages too often.

For my part of the program, I'm in Kigali one or two weekends per month, teaching in the second level. I like my classes because the trainees, mostly judges, are motivated learners. The project is inspiring because while it began on a small scale, it grew into something very helpful for Rwanda that has the capacity to continue for as long as it is useful. This, to me, is what Peace Corps is about and I'm glad to be a part of it.

8 comments:

  1. Hi Ian,
    Really enjoyed reading your blog, especially since I'm a Florida boy who went to Wake Forest ('00-'04) and am also currently serving in the Peace Corps in Guyana, South America as an education volunteer. Heh... what are the odds right? We (i'm serving with my wife) COS next April. Perhaps we should get together to swap stories over... basically any food we want to eat!

    All the best,
    Nate Stewart

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    1. Hey Nate,

      Wow, are you entirely sure that we're different people? That is a lot of coincidences. I can't seem to follow the link back to your blogger profile, but I put my e-mail up on the blog so feel free to contact me. Meeting up sometime after COS sounds great.

      Ian

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  2. Hey, Ian love your blog.. I was trying to send you a message, but I didn't run across an email addy or option for message on blogspot, I may have overlooked it.

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    1. Hey Rada,

      Adding an e-mail address was something I overlooked when I made this blog. It's up there now. I look forward to hearing from you.

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  3. Hey Ian, I just saw your article on Business Insider, awesome work! I hope you are doing great! I'd love to have you in our upcoming course on Peace Corps, if you have the time to call in one hour a week. It's a free/donation-based course with all proceeds going to Peace Corps projects worldwide. You can check it out here at www.peacecorps101.com. :) I hope you continue having an awesome service Ian!

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    1. Hey Travis,

      It sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I'm having a hard time loading the page. I will try again later when I have a better connection, but if you have time, could you e-mail me some basic information using the address I've added at the top of this blog? Thanks!

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  4. Good man, I hope this experience enriches you for a long time. How long do you plan to be teaching at the Mibirizi school and/or staying in Rwanda?

    John Poulton UK

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  5. I've surfed the net more than three hours today, and your blog was the coolest of all. Thanks a lot, it is really useful to me

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