Mathilde Mukantabana, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States, and other Rwandan dignitaries came to the University of Hartford on Thursday, Aug. 21, to attend a ceremony for 40 educators from Rwanda who had successfully completed a month-long program (July 28 – Aug. 22) designed to enhance their skills, thereby increasing their effectiveness as teachers and as educational leaders in their home country.
Also attending the program were University President Walter Harrison, Provost Sharon L. Vasquez, Regent Arnold C. Greenberg, and a number of University faculty members who served as instructors in the program.
This pilot Rwandan Teacher Training Program, launched as a partnership between the Rwanda Ministry of Education and the University of Hartford, featured a team of University of Hartford faculty and Greater Hartford educators leading the Rwandan teachers through a solid regimen of training courses and events designed to broaden the scope of their knowledge and skills. Among the topics covered in the program were English Language Learning, Instructional Methods, Educational Leadership, Peaceful Communication, Visual Arts, and Understanding Global Genocides.
The Rwandan educators are now expected to share their learning with their colleagues as leaders within the Rwandan schools. If funding allows, the team from the United States plans to offer month-long training bi-annually in Rwanda with the goal of educating a large percentage of Rwandan teachers over the next 10 years.
“This is not the end of something today, but, I hope, just the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between the University and the Republic of Rwanda,” President Harrison told those attending the ceremony. “I hope this is the beginning of a sustained partnership to improve the effectiveness of teacher education in Rwanda and to improve our understanding of your country.”
In her remarks, Ambassador Mukantabana also expressed her excitement about the potential of this partnership. A top goal of the Rwandan government is to increase the power of the country’s human capital, and one of the prime ways to achieve that is by improving the quality of education in Rwanda. Improving education requires improving the quality of teachers and teacher education in the country, and this program will help achieve that, she said.
This pilot Rwandan Teacher Training Program was spearheaded by Joseph Olzacki, who is serving as its director. Olzacki, a University of Hartford alumnus, had previously served as director of arts education in the Bloomfield Public Schools and has developed close ties with the government and people of Rwanda through various trips to discuss his award winning Identity Project – a project that focused on using modern lessons from the Holocaust and other genocides to strengthen student identity. Working with Olzacki in this endeavor was Donn Weinholtz, director of the Educational Leadership doctoral program in the University’s College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions.
The Rwandan Teacher Training Program was developed with help from a grant from Alan Lazowski, chairman and CEO of LAZ Parking, in honor of his parents, Rabbi Philip and Ruth Lazowski – both educators and Holocaust survivors. Initial planning assistance was also provided by the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies.