Yesterday, Friday, July 5th, we rose early with the intention of walking to the Kigali Institute of Education to seek out Leon Mugabe and other faculty contacts. Because of the 4th of July Holiday (theirs not ours) we had suggested they not disrupt their family time to greet us when we first arrived, but wait until today to make contact. We were happy to make the familiar journey to the college on foot, but we had barely finished breakfast before our dear friend Leon arrived at the hotel in the company of Professor Nsanzabiga, former KIE Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Languages, who had been responsible for hosting us so warmly in the past three years. Although he has now stepped down from his position as Dean, thus relinquishing that responsibility, he turned out to greet us at the first opportunity, ready to drive us to KIE in style. It was a joy to see him and, of course, to be re-united with Leon.
After catching-up on personal news, we learned that KIE is once again undergoing changes as a result of a major structural reorganization of higher education in Rwanda. As of the next academic year, it will come under the umbrella of the University of Rwanda, with sole responsibility for teacher education throughout the country. Inevitably, the changes have brought new pressures to bear on the senior administration, including the new Dean of Arts and Languages, Dr. Cyprien Niyomugabo. Nonetheless, when we arrived at KIE, he received us most graciously, taking pains to tell us what an important component of the school curriculum drama is, how important it is overall to the educational and cultural life of Rwanda, and assuring us of the impact our annual visits have already made.
Meanwhile, at the departmental level, the Head of the Drama Department, Dr. Emmanuel Ahimana and the full-time faculty of two (Professors Kayishema and Spackman) were busy collecting and assessing the first-ever Action Research Reports of its first graduating cohort; and indeed meeting with all those students we began working with back in 2010. Here again, in spite of the work pressures, they found time to greet us warmly. Hearing them and Leon talk about the challenges and learning entailed in completing the capstone experience, and an entire cycle of study for the first time in a new program, resonated strongly with us. It is easy to forget that our MAAT has only been up and running two years longer than the KIE drama major.
Yesterday was the final day that all these capstone reports were due from the students, which meant that a number of them were in college – and sure enough they found us. We were very touched when one student, Anton, showed us the acknowledgments in the front of his Report: they included the visiting CUNY students 2010, 2011 and 2012 as well as both of us!
Our morning visit was quite short as everyone was so busy and the official ‘meet and greet’ is scheduled for first thing on Monday morning, when all our students are here, but we were nonetheless grateful for the opportunity to return to the familiar environs of KIE, to connect with key faculty, and meet at least some of the students we know. We have no doubt that word of our arrival will spread rapidly.
These brief meetings also gave the chance to confirm some of the important work arrangements for the coming weeks. Later, that evening, we were also able to review at leisure the overall schedule, including plans for the extra-curricular cultural visits. Our other old friend, and original instigator of the entire project, Jean de Dieu Musayidizi, arrived at the hotel, along with Leon, to take us to dinner. And later, Eugene Nsanzabiga once again joined us. This was work as we like it: goat brochettes, roast chicken and an entire, large grilled fish – delicious – all eased down with a bottle or two of Primus – and of course, notes, schedules etc. everywhere! It would seem that so far we are all very much in accord with our mutual expectations for the coming days – but who wouldn’t be, in such convivial circumstances?
We slept well last night! This morning early, Margo and Brooke arrived safely – with all their bags (4 for 4 so far) – after a long but uneventful journey. By end of day the CUNY delegation should be complete. Tomorrow we begin with the de rigueur tour of Kigali. Then we shall only lack the KIE students for our reunions to be complete and the next phase of the work to begin.
Stay tuned … Chris & Helen