Amplifying Student Voices in Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and the U.S.

This past spring, Level Up Village was pleased to play a role in Greenwich High School’s Diversity Week events, which centered on the themes of Student Empowerment and Student Voices.

The first event was a panel discussion on the topic Global Disruption to Education: Student Voices from Harare, Zimbabwe, and Greenwich. Students talked about ways they tried to stay connected to friends, active in sports and the arts, and entertained to pass the time. They also described all the things they had each done to overcome challenges to learning. In this regard, they understood how much they valued being able to carry on with their education remotely.

The second event, The Global Coding Course: Student Voices from Zimbabwe and Greenwich, included student presentations of websites built during a four-week course in HTML and CSS led by Ronald Nyamukuwa, Instructor and Regional Manager of Level Up Village Zimbabwe. Students began by getting to know each other through the sharing of videos where they introduced themselves and their interests. Groups researched topics in Public Health, Political Leadership, and Climate Change and collaborated on the creation of websites focusing on these topics from both the U.S. and Zimbabwean perspectives. Classes met on Wednesday afternoons for an hour, with Mr. Nyamukuwa and his students in Zimbabwe joining the classes at 9:45 pm local time!

The course provided an opportunity for students to learn directly from each other about issues of global importance. At the end of the presentations, students in GHS classrooms who were tuned into the session were able to pose questions to both GHS and Zimbabwean students, such as: “Is coding worth learning if you’re not considering going into a field involving computer science?” The answer was “Definitely ‘yes’!”

Mr. Nyamukuwa’s take-away: “Training both Zimbabwean students from Harare and American students from Greenwich high school helped me realize that globalization is the new normal. While It is important to be good at schoolwork or your job, it is also important to be able to work well with others in a group setting. I was amazed by how students who have never seen each other managed to organize themselves and come up with a full website. It is evident that the soft skills are a key component in any working and learning environment.”

At the third event, Empowering Students in Rwanda, GHS students attended a presentation with two successful advocates of Rwandan education, David Dusabirane and Benon Mugisha, who grew up in Rwanda, recently completed their degrees at Brown University and Samford University, respectively, and returned to Rwanda to work on various education and business initiatives, which included supporting teachers and students with online learning during the pandemic.

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David Dusabirane

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Benon Mugisha

David and Benon described their experiences, as well as Rwanda’s incredible progress in the last 26 years, in the areas of business, education, and national government, where over 60% of the parliamentary representatives are women!

GHS students asked great questions, such as “What is one program or normality in Rwanda that you believe could make the U.S. a better place if it was adopted here?” David and Benon spoke about Umuganda—a Kinyarwanda word that means “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.” In Rwanda, this plays out during the last Saturday of every month, when people come out to serve each other and their community by cleaning, making repairs, gardening, and performing general beautification tasks among others.

Many thanks to all the participants from Greenwich High School, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda for bringing together student voices from around the world!

—Paula Van Ells, Level Up Village