Surry Community College Scholars of Global Distinction are getting to know students in Rwanda by being pen pals.
The connection took place when SCC English Instructor and Scholars of Global Distinction Advisor, Sarah Wright was contacted by Mandy Campbell Moore, who was a graduate school classmate at Antioch University Los Angeles. Moore is now a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda and is teaching students who are learning English as their fourth language.
“She wanted them to be able to practice, so she asked if anyone had any students who would want to write them letters, ” explains Wright. “I was lucky enough to be the first to say that I had the students. I knew it would be perfect for our Scholars of Global Distinction. ”
At first there were around 20 students in Rwanda who were interested, but that grew to 49 students. “We have 21 SCC students writing letters to 49 Rwandan students, ” says Wright. “It is obvious from the pictures that both sets of students are grateful to be engaging in the process. Our students are happy to learn about the daily lives of the students in Rwanda, and the Rwandan students seem generally interested in learning about the lives of our students, ” says Wright.
“We have simply taken photos of the letters and sent them back and forth via email, but I will eventually send the hard copies, so they can have them in their hands. Many of our students have included pictures of themselves, stickers, or other drawings. ”
Moore, the teacher in Rwanda says, “We received the letters just before the term exams and distributed them among the classrooms. The students were overjoyed, and they cannot wait to write back when Term 2 begins mid-April. Our students feel they know these Americans personally after reading their letters. They feel that they have friends in America. ”
Students in Rwanda are excited about having Pen Pals in the U.S. and practicing their English, which is their fourth language.
Moore says that in addition to their mother tongue, Kinyarwanda, Rwandans learn English, French, and Kiswahili. All subjects are primarily taught in English beginning in fourth grade, and their national exams are written in English.
“Our pen pal program is an activity for our English Club, which meets weekly and allows students to improve their English through a variety of fun activities, ” explains Moore.
She and two Rwandan teachers are the club mentors, and they have a couple of student leaders. Each week, anywhere from 20 to 60 learners will attend the meeting. The learners who normally attend English club range from eighthgrade to 12thgrade, but their ages may range from 14 to 25.
Moore adds, “They come from rural, agricultural families. After school, it is common to see learners carrying heavy jerrycans to fetch water for their families, tending the family cows and goats, and working in their fields. The primary work in our village is subsistence farming. ”
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