Social sustainability. Environmental sustainability. Economic sustainability. All of these are important to us at Rwamagana Leaders School.
School culture is important to any school for any young people, but in a country where genocide divided and decimated the population and where corporal punishment was recently routine, it is fundamental. We have a code of conduct that guides both students and staff. Each student is a member of a Crew of fifteen or less who stay with one adult for three years. We push students to compete with standards and their personal best rather than with one another. We encourage teamwork and participation. We have an expectation that new students will be welcomed and helped, never ostracized or teased.
We want our campus to be a working model for student learning. Currently, we have rain water catchment, solar power, biogas digesters (for part of our fuel needs) and chickens and a cow. We sort our garbage for recycling and we hope to start a greenhouse project.
Meanwhile, we are working to develop an A-Level (10th-12th grades) curriculum that can help our students be competitive in fields such as green architecture, waste management, alternative energy, water management, soil science, family planning and environmental law, to name a few. Water Brueggemann said, “Those who are kept powerless will not be healed, they will remain beggars.” Our goal is to see greater economic sustainability for parents and students. As the country develops “trade, not aid” , more parents can contribute to paying school fees and the school can develop entrepreneurial projects to support the school. While we may always have some students who urgently need assistance, we are aiming for 65% economic independence through parent tuition and income-generating projects.
We are using Expeditionary Learning (EL) as a way to push critical thinking and analysis, cross-curricular connections between subjects, extensive reading and writing, and inquiry-based math and science. EL helps us to improve professional development for teachers, methods of assessment for learning and pushes us to use data to back up our assumptions about student learning. In an EL school, character development and community service are as important as academics. To learn more about EL and how it inspires us, check out elschools.org .
We are just beginning to explore opportunities for integrating community service and learning, and last year we made nearly a thousand mud bricks for an orphan-headed household nearby. In the best scenarios, community service relationships are lasting and meaningful to all parties and students as they learn about the community’s needs.