How Redempta Helps Students Feel Safe at School
Children line the hard-packed earth of a school playground in Rwanda. Eager and intent, they watch their teacher Redempta hold up a drawing of a shape. The students respond by calling out its name, bursting with pride and delight.
“You are good learners,” Redempta says at the end of the game. “Let’s clap for ourselves!”
Lessons weren’t always so joyous. Just a short time ago, children would’ve been too afraid to speak out in class, fearful that if they misbehaved, they might be struck by their teacher.
The frequent use of corporal punishment in Rwandan schools has kept many students tense and unmotivated. But Redempta has shown teachers and students that with a playful approach to learning, things can be different.
DETERMINED TO MAKE A CHANGE
When Redempta became a teacher, she was determined to make classroom violence a less common occurrence.
She knows how difficult it is to learn in the shadow of fear.
“I remember when I was a learner, we had hard punishment,” she recalls. “For example, sometimes if you came later to school, the teacher took a ruler and he tried to beat you on the fingernails. Because of the corporal punishment that I got, I said that when I will be a teacher, I will give my contribution to eliminate corporal punishment.”
But in the beginning, unfamiliar with other methods to manage her classroom, the young teacher used the only form of discipline she knew: scolding and hitting children.
“We beat learners,” Redempta remembers. “We didn’t take care of learners with different abilities.”
Her attempts to shift away from harsh disciplinary practices were met with resistance; corporal punishment is a long-standing practice in Rwanda. In a 2015 survey, 60% of children reported experiencing physical violence at the hands of their teacher.
While intending to improve performance, violence in the classroom has the opposite effect—diminishing academic achievement and increasing drop-out rates. This has devastating consequences for children.
A SAFER SPACE TO LEARN
With training from Right To Play, Redempta got the support she needed to make classrooms safe.
Redempta was one of 1,694 teachers across the country who learned how to use positive disciplinary techniques and make learning spaces inclusive for students of all genders and abilities. Redempta knows how to use play-based learning methods that make learning fun and interactive for her students. By the end of the program, 78% of teachers in schools that partnered with Right To Play were using play in the classroom, compared to 9% when the project started.
“I said that when I will be a teacher, I will give my contribution to eliminate corporal punishment.”- Redempta, Right To Play-trained teacher
“When we teach now, we use games in each lesson,” Redempta reports. “Learners are very interested. They follow the teacher carefully and, at the end of the lesson, learners understand very well the lesson studied through the game, and the objective of the teacher is achieved.”
Students who feel excited to learn are better able to pay attention. But now, if they do misbehave or fall behind in their schoolwork, Redempta provides thoughtful feedback through focused conversations.
Inspiring other teachers to use positive disciplinary techniques is how Redempta made her school the kind of place she envisioned when she set out to become a teacher. In the last five years, the school has eliminated corporal punishment. When new teachers come on staff, Redempta is proud to tell them: “That’s not the kind of school we are anymore.”
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
Students with different learning abilities feel safe and supported in Redempta’s class, knowing they will get the care they need to thrive.
“Right To Play helped us to know that we have an obligation as teachers to support learners of all abilities,” says Redempta. “All children have priority to be here at school.”
Redempta is thinking about girls, too, who face substantial socio-cultural barriers to education and are under-represented in classrooms and curricula. Gender gaps in education contribute to girls’ low enrolment rates and boys outperforming girls in 26 of Rwanda’s 30 districts.
“Play-based learning, which was taught by Right To Play, helped us to know the value of gender balance at school,” says Redempta.
Redempta has seen how safe and inclusive learning environments translate to better learning outcomes—and better experiences for teachers, too.
“Learners and teachers, all of them, are satisfied,” Redempta reports. “And when there is a test or a case, the majority of the learners succeed and performed well.”
“Learners understand very well the lesson studied through the game.”- Redempta
The training that Redempta participated in is part of the Gender Responsive Education and Transformation (GREAT) program, which was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Active in Ghana, Rwanda, and Mozambique from 2018 to 2023, the GREAT program used Right To Play's play-based learning approach to remove barriers to education, especially for girls, and to build teacher capacity to improve learning outcomes.