Noelly is a new graduate of the DNS teacher training program at Mbankana in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is a spirited 21-year- old who speaks passionately about teaching and helping her country.
“I want to work for sustainable development by teaching in rural primary schools,” she says. During her two-year training program at the DNS college, Noelly learned first hand about the unique needs and challenges facing rural schools in the DRC. Mbankana, where she completed her training, is located 150 km east of the capitol city of Kinshasa. It is a small village surrounded by farm plots and connected to other communities mostly by dirt paths.
The Learning Process
Noelly did her student teaching in two primary schools near Mbankana. She indicates that discipline was often a problem among the pupils and the teachers. Pupils would leave the classroom without consequences and sometimes walk away at the first break and not return that day. Noelly considers this to have been partly the fault of teachers, who do not enforce rules and often come as much as one hour late to class themselves. The instructional methodology also did not engage students, and often involved rote exercises that were tedious and boring.
Noelly introduced new methods that she had learned at the DNS college, which involved group work and problem solving. She sought to create more activity in the classroom and also challenge the students. She fashioned simply teaching materials from whatever she could find, using bottle caps, nails and wood to help her teach math and other subjects.
Reflecting back on her experiences, Noelly is thankful for the training she received at the DNS college. It helped her become the kind of teacher she wanted to be. As a little girl growing up near Kinshasa, she had lost her parents at age 12 and could not afford to continue school. Fortunately, a teacher came to her aid, offering to pay her fees until her relatives could manage. Noelly has remained forever grateful to this teacher, whose benevolence still inspires her both inside and outside of the classroom.
Contemplating her future
Noelly indicates that her desire to be a teacher has sometimes brought her scorn. Girls are expected to be quiet and reserved in traditional Congolese society, but she had learned long ago to be outspoken. “Do you think you are a boy?” she would be told by male and female peers in the program.
The remarks did not dissuade Noelly, but instead made her all the more determined. She steadfastly took up the issue of gender fairness during the “common meetings” —a forum at the school where students could discuss day-to-day issues. Slowly, she was able to convince the males that they should participate equally with women in completing common chores around the college.
“Today I am a competent girl without fear of standing in front of people and taking up challenges,” Noelly says.
When her class began doing local community work—a core component of the DNS training—Noelly chose to focus on women’s issues, organizing discussions among villagers to improve their awareness. The groups involved both male and female participants, and the fact that she, a woman, had organized the group encouraged women to participate. It emboldened them to speak their mind about a wide range of issues, from HIV to household work.
As of now, Noelly works as a teacher’s assistant at the DNS college, until she begins her job as a rural primary school teacher in September. She socializes with the new girls who have just begun the teacher training program, encouraging them to speak out and take up the challenge and build confidence.