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.