The usual buzz and chatter at Agahozo-Shalom falls quiet as midterm examinations get underway. Many of the open spaces within the Village have been taken over by students sprawled out with their textbooks, as they quiz one another, covering a multitude of material offered within the Rwandan curriculum. After a student’s Enrichment Year (first year) in the Village, they are required to pick a ‘combination,’ or a focus group of classes that they pursue for the rest of their high school career. There are a vast variety of combinations ranging from EFK: English, French, and Kinyarwanda, to MPC: Math, Physics, and Computers. The assignment of a combination is based partially on the interest(s) of each student, in addition to their aptitude and performance in certain subjects.  

Our Senior 6 (12th grade) students, however, have a much more stressful matter at hand - passing the Rwandan National Examination. At the end of their senior year, all students are required to take the National Exam in each of the six or seven subjects offered within their combination. It is only with the successful completion of this exam that students are able to receive their high school diplomas.  

According to the US Embassy in Kigali, “grading is exceptionally tough, fewer than 3% of grades are A’s, and 30% of students fail any given exam.” [1] Over the past two graduating classes, the Liquidnet Family High School (LNFHS) has seen amazing results from our students on the National Exam. As a result of last year’s high marks, ASYV graduates were eligible to receive 35 state-funded scholarships and over 50 Survivor’s Fund Scholarships (distributed to direct-Genocide survivors). In a display of ASYV’s advocacy on behalf of women’s’ education, 16 of ASYV’s top 30 performing students are female, showing a marked improvement from the national average.

Despite the pressure, ASYV’s seniors are rising to the challenge! Senior student Solange Niyonsenga of the John Lennon Family is currently studying for her National Exam that will focus on history, economics, and computers. Before Solange takes the official exam in October, she will complete five mock exams throughout the school year to give her an idea of the sorts of questions that will be asked as well as a feel for the testing environment. “What makes me the most nervous when I think about the National Exam is the color of the paper. On the mock exams, the paper is white, but on the official exam the paper will be thick and beige. When I hold that paper, I will know that I am taking the exam that will impact my future,” said Solange, speaking of what makes her the most anxious when thinking about exam day. Solange dreams of receiving high enough marks on her exam to get a scholarship to university where she can study to become a Human Rights Lawyer. “Specifically I want to be a lawyer who advocates on behalf of the rights of children,” she says. 

Another senior student, Eric Kabiyona of the Baden Powell Family studies for his national exam focusing on math, physics, and computers. “The worst thing that can happen during your national exam is that you are surprised by the material,” says Eric. He continued, “The curriculum is so big that there is no way you can understand everything that you have learned perfectly. For this reason we study in groups. I want to share what I know and learn from those who have a better understanding in a subject that was challenging for me.” 

LNFHS teachers encourage the mentality that reaching out for help is not an indication of weakness, but rather provides a lifeline to academic improvement. Our students pride themselves on asking pointed and thoughtful questions and attempt to steer away from traditional forms of memorization-based education. It is from this methodology that the slogan of the LNFHS reads, “Just a moment, let me think.” The idea is to push students to analyze the information being taught to them and to become critical thinkers both inside and outside of the classroom. It is from this foundation that we believe our students have been so successful in past years on the National Exam and why this year’s seniors will prove no different.           

We wish our Senior 6 students luck on their fourth mock exam this week and for the official National Exams that will begin on October 28th, 2014!

[1] http://rwanda.usembassy.gov/rwanda_system_of_education.html

Submitted by Sasha Friedman, 2014 Village Fellow