Rwandan students pose with former iSchool Dean Liz Liddy during their residency in Syracuse in 2013. From left to right: Ali Kaleeba, Jean Pierre Mugiraneza, Dean Liddy, Chantal Dusabe Kabanda, and Bernard Bahati.

In 2013, the School of Information Studies (iSchool), in conjunction with the Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa (ITOCA) and the University of Rwanda College of Education (UR-CE), launched a program, Improving Teacher Librarian Education in Rwanda, which specialized in improving school literacy. The program was created under a grant ITOCA received from the Department of International Development in the United Kingdom to advance Rwanda’s education system.

There were three components to the program. First, short workshops were held throughout Rwanda to train teachers to work as school librarians. Second, a curriculum with a focus on teacher-librarianship was developed for UR-CE. Third, four Rwandans came to Syracuse University to learn how to educate others on the skills of teacher librarianship.

Bernard Bahati, Jean Pierre Mugitaneza, Chantal Kabanda and Bakai Kabeba were selected, after a lengthy process, to earn a Certificate of Subject Expertise in International Teacher-Librarianship through the iSchool.  During the summer of 2013, they all spent two weeks on the Syracuse University campus completing their residency. Shortly after, they returned to Rwanda to complete their program through the iSchool’s distance learning option.

“For me, the program was very helpful,” said Kabanda. “Distance learning itself was for me, a good experience. I found it a good way of enhancing independent learning that is still challenging in our education system in Rwanda. As a teacher at UR-CE, this experience will help me to effectively facilitate my students learning.”

In just two years, Rwanda has undergone a positive change. The short workshops, which were developed by Sarah Inoue, the iSchool’s project manager for international development, with help from the Syracuse University Library faculty, have seen tremendous amounts of success. Teachers who have completed the workshop have gained information literacy skills, and learned about learner-centered pedagogy, which encourages students to self-teach, and have experienced how it would work inside of a classroom.

Prior to this program, the majority of schools in Rwanda did not have a library, let alone a librarian. In addition, many of these schools kept most of their books inside boxes sitting in office corners. After the workshops, many head teachers took the books out of boxes, placed them on shelves and encouraged teachers to use them in their courses.

The Teacher Training College, one of the Rwandan colleges that hosted the workshops, realized the lack of school libraries in the country. This prompted the college to open its library doors to the public and the local schools. Following this, the library saw an increase of teachers using their library and an increase in public awareness in regards to the resources that are available to them.

Subsequently, a Bachelor of Education in Library and Information Science curriculum was developed with assistance from the Rwandan students.

“With the knowledge and skills acquired in Teacher-Librarianship program from Syracuse University, I was able to contribute to the development of the Bachelor of Education, Library and Information Science program to be introduced at the University of Rwanda-College of Education,” stated Kabanda.

The four Rwandan students recently completed their Syracuse distance programs. Once the bachelor’s curriculum is established they will be able to teach the information they learned during their studies at the iSchool to the future librarians of Rwanda.

“Teacher-librarians are needed in Rwanda to promote reading culture, information literacy and to effectively manage, create and use information resources in schools,” emphasized Kabanda.