8/7/2017: St Andre

We weren’t sure what to expect after yesterday’s school visit – where we were overcrowded with too many students and too little space – but our visit to St Andre high school was a completely different story.

Thanks to a technical fault with the campus minibus, we were forced to take individual mototaxis with our workshop materials in hand (including three models of bridges, 3D architectural landscapes, 10+ posters and a life-size drawing of a set of lungs). Our Rwandan team were super helpful with coordinating 23 motorbikes at the one time, although we did end up looking like a very tame motorcycle gang.

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Upon arrival at the school, we were directed to a huge assembly hall with a large stage and a PA system, which gave us the space to set up 6 workshops simultaneously. The room gradually filled with pupils, a mixture of boys and girls, to the point we were getting a little concerned that we wouldn’t be able to host all of them in the 90 minutes we had been allocated.

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After an introductory speech from Jumai covering engineering as a whole, we brought groups of pupils up to the stage in groups to start taking part in the workshops. It ended up being more like a science fair, with pupils walking around and asking questions alongside the set activities and presentations we had prepared. This made for a more relaxed feeling, and allowed the children to have a look at all the different themes instead of being limited to the workshops they were standing at first.

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Although it was a little mad at times – with some workshops being completely swamped to the point we couldn’t see the people running – but we had so many questions from interested individuals about different subjects, career options and enquiring about what we do. This was really fun for all of the team, getting the chance to pass on advice and having children becoming interested in their degree subject thanks to the workshops. Even the people who weren’t able to fit on the stage at the

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We also had an insightful conversation with the accompanying staff member, and he explained that they would appreciate some form of follow-up after we leave. Once we returned back to campus, we all sat round and discussed the feedback we received during our school session:

  • Firstly, acknowledging the desire for follow-up, we were brainstorming how to provide information that is useful for the children visiting the workshops. Common questions revolved around the subject combinations suitable for particular degrees – the Rwandan system fixes children from an early age into three distinct subjects, which can be really limiting later on. We were asked a lot about scholarships too, and how they could get to study in the UK.
    • Therefore, we talked about the possibility of creating a website which would be a hub of information for the children and teachers we meet with. This could contain all the answers to their questions alongside other functionalities.
  • Secondly, many of the children we met wanted to get involved with FemEng as well. The Dean of Discipline suggested we help them to start a club within the school which would be focused on STEM.
    • This encouraged us to think of how we could facilitate this; or more appropriately, how the Rwandan team would be able to work with these ideas.
  • Finally, we were reminded by one of our Rwandan team, Alexia (Mining), that we must realise that many of the schools in the city are fairly privileged, and already know about science and the possibilities for their futures. She wants us to also visit rural areas to ensure we are opening up opportunities to everyone.
    • This led onto a great discussion about the Rwandan team’s plans for how to self-sustain this initiative when we leave. Olga (Architecture) was passionate about the continuation of this work and they have planned to meet over the weekend to discuss how they will move forward.

It is super exciting to see how we have facilitated these young women to be leaders and teachers in their own schools and their own country; most of the time we were able to sit back and let them run the workshops with little input from ourselves. We are confident that this group will visit schools when we leave, and they are prepared and willing to do so.

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Now it’s the weekend, we are all taking a break to recuperate and rethink how to improve the workshops. Monday and Tuesday will encompass another two schools, and on Wednesday we get to visit Muahanga to visit both Zipline and Bridges to Prosperity sites. Our Aero and Civil Engineers are particularly excited!

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