Creating A Bridge to University

| kepler

By Aimee Carlson
Source: Humanitarian Education Accelerator | Orginal Article Link
Published : June 7, 2018

‘Don’t think of this as just a work study position or just tasks to accomplish, let’s do our best to help our students achieve their dreams.’

In the past few years, Kepler has hosted a preparation program at refugee camps around Rwanda to give youth the opportunity to improve their English and math skills and to improve their chances of passing the admissions process at Kepler. This year the program received an upgrade and a new name, Iteme, which means ‘bridge’ in Kinyarwanda. In it’s new model, the program is intended to act as a bridge to any tertiary education opportunity within Rwanda, allowing students to practice their English, learn professional competency skills, and gain basic technology skills with tablets, while getting support to apply to many tertiary education opportunities in Rwanda.

With three sites currently running, two in Kigali City and one in Mahama Refugee Camp, Iteme is serving around 140 students in this first round, 40 of which are Rwandans from vulnerable backgrounds and 100 of which are Burundian refugees. The students meet for 8 to 12 hours each week depending on the site and rotate between a technology session, reading/writing activities, and a teaching assistant-led professional competency lesson. In addition, other institutions, such as Akilah, These Numbers Have Faces, African Leadership University, and DAFI have had the chance to visit the classes, letting students know about the programs offered at their universities and what they need to do to apply. Since many of the Iteme participants are refugees or vulnerable Rwandans with very little financial means, Iteme has focused on opportunities that offer scholarships or a loan program.

Many participants in Iteme have the intelligence and drive to go far in their careers, but, due to instability in their home country or a lack of access to higher quality education, these participants struggle to make it through the application process. English is becoming more and more important to being accepted at university programs within Rwanda and even across East Africa. For these participants, they may have attended school in Burundi, where classes are taught in French, rather than English. Or their family could only afford a public school in Rwanda, where the teachers are still learning English themselves. Iteme aims to provide the students a space where they can practice their English, gain confidence in their speaking abilities and in themselves, and build on the knowledge they already have.

As the world has become more connected and is relying heavily on technology, Kepler has also recognized the need for technology-based skills in today’s job market. Having basic knowledge of technology can go along way in preparing someone for a higher education program or for the workplace. With the upgrades Iteme received this year, technology has also been added into the curriculum through the use of tablets. The students of Iteme are able to use tablets during one of their three hour-long rotations, practicing their English, math, and typing skills using apps on the tablets. By the end of the four and a half month program, the hope is participants are prepared to do well in whichever higher education program they join.

Seven Kepler students work with the Iteme Program as Teaching Assistants and Operation Assistant through Kepler’s Work Study Program. In these positions, the students gain some work experience, share the skills they have learned at Kepler with the Iteme participants, and earn a small stipend which is put toward their tuition loan. The students in these positions have truly taken ownership over the program and their objectives, going out of their way to ensure our students are successful and get as many chances as possible.  Between meeting the students at African Leadership University to help them apply or setting up extra time outside of class for one-on-one advising, these Kepler students have taken on the Iteme Program as more than just a part-time job, but as an opportunity to help others achieve their higher education dreams.

And some of those dreams are already coming true! In Kigali, students have already received conditional acceptance into African Leadership University, both for the Rwandan and Mauritius Campuses. At Mahama Refugee Camp, there are 10 students who will be attending a six-month vocational program at the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Center (IPRC) in Ngoma, Rwanda. Across all three sites, a majority of students have successfully made it through the application stage for Kepler and are waiting to sit for the admission exam. We can’t wait to see what else the Iteme participants accomplish and where they end up in their paths to education!