As the second week has come and gone I have begun to gain more insight as to the main purpose of how Belay Rwanda wishes this program to progress and how to properly adapt to these changes. Midway through the second week the goal was altered from being to create businesses into being a more supportive role for the students, with business creation taking a more secondary role. This change made the group and myself sent here to make more changes to the curriculum and gave a realization that their promise in the beginning of this program of total control was not entirely accurate. While the wellbeing and care for the students and their learning should be put above all else, it was clear that many students were having a more difficult time with many of the topics. Once again the language and social barrier was a major obstacle to overcome. Many of the students showed a lack of understanding, and when addressed with these issues they provided little feedback for our failure to properly teach the subject matter to them. This difficulty, along with a lack of time and a desire to help create businesses, made us consider the possibility of having to cut some people from the program. The reasoning was for the sake of being able to effectively teach the subject to those who had a better understanding and to create the businesses that were desired for. When we told of our intentions to Belay Rwanda they said that this was a place of support and that even if they do not create a proper business that is ok. While this is of good intentions and I appreciate a company willing to try to help all, the consistent change of approach and direction of the program, especially when the program is underway, begins to whittle away more time to effectively teach.
Besides the inconvenience, the teaching has been beneficial on some level for both the students as well as myself. While some topics such as their minimum viable product and field research have been difficult for them to successfully execute, progress has been made. It has just become clear that in order for this program to be more successful, more time or a clearer personal understanding must be made for this program. As for myself, I have been learning to be able to adjust to these changes in direction. Creating new or changing current material with a time period of just a couple of days has been very beneficial to learn.
With the first week underway, a lot has already happened. As the training progressed, it was clear that more work was needed on the project than what was previously thought. With this being the first year that the current schedule and process was being used, there were some kinks to fix. More sources of information and a revamping of the curriculum were needed. Certain areas such as market analysis, finance, and supply chain were just a few areas that needed more sources and a more detailed approach. When the new schedule was altered, time became one of the more precious resources. Before the internship was underway six weeks seemed like a long time, but now time seems to rush by. Precision and accuracy in terms of teaching is so vital right now, as there are only two weeks of actual teaching and the rest involves starting the business and analyzing the results of their learning and the beginning of their business. Overall however the program is going well. A few students have great business ideas and with the right effort and training they will be successful.
So far most of the students seem very keen on learning more desiring to start their business as soon as possible. The main hurdle when teaching as of now is the language barrier. While every student is able to speak and read English, it is still difficult to get certain concepts across. One student described how sometimes when he sees a word he translates it back to Kinyarwanda then retranslates it back to English. Somewhere in that process a different definition or idea of what that word means comes out. To combat that we have been working to be more precise in the words we choose. A second hurdle is general societal difference. A lot of facial expressions are different than what Westerners use, so at times it is hard to get a read on someone on whether they understand something or not. Loudness and forwardness is generally looked down upon in Rwanda, especially for women. At first everyone barely spoke above a mumble, but as the students and we teachers got to know one another more they have become more open and louder. As the second week is underway it will be clearer how to proceed and whether our planning has paid off.
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