An Interview With Colleagues

By Michael Perrin
Jan. 3, 2019

Education Volunteer Michael recently sat down with two of his teacher colleagues to get their thoughts on being teachers, Rwandan culture, and more!

"A Peace Corps staff person recently asked me if I was interested in writing about my service. We decided that it might be interesting to lend our platform to someone from my community and share their voice with our followers. I knew I couldn’t choose only one person so I asked if two of my closest colleagues were okay with the idea. Hilarie and Theonille answered the call without any hesitation and were more than willing to share their experiences as women in Rwanda.

Hilarie leads the GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) club at our school and we worked together closely for Let Girls Work this year. Theonille invited all the women teachers to my home in March for International Women’s Day and we’ve been talking about ways to make our community more inclusive and supportive of women ever since. I’m honored and lucky to work with and look up to these amazing people. I hope this interview gives you an insight as to what it’s like being a professional woman in Rwanda."

1) What is your occupation?
We are both teachers. We teach literature and geography to secondary students from 7th grade to 10th grade.

2) How long have you been teachers?
Theonille has been a teacher for twenty years and Hilarie has for seven.

3) What made you want to be a teacher?
We had good teachers in secondary school and they motivated us to learn and grow and we wanted to do that for future students. Teaching is also a stable job and it is easier to find than in other institutions like nursing or engineering. We also love teaching because it is like being a parent to lots of students and we are able to help them grow and learn as we did in our schooling.

4) What is a typical day like for you? 
On school days, we arrive at school at 7am and teach until 5pm, then we cook, prepare the garden in our compound, clean our home and prepare lessons for the next school day. We end the day around 9:30pm.

5) What do you like most about teaching?
Teaching requires a lot of cooperation among colleagues and in the community, and we like that a lot. We are able to meet with a lot of people and help the students in our community. Our colleagues become our life friends because of how much time we spend together so we enjoy each other very much.

6) I know you are both mothers, what’s your goal as a parent?
Our goals are to be an example to our society and help our children attend a university. We also want to be model parents for others to look up to.

7) What are some challenges you face?
At times, it is good to be a woman in Rwanda because of programs like “Gira inka munyrarwanda” which means “one cow, one family.” The government provides a cow to lower-income families, some of which lack a husband.

Our parliament is also 60% women which we like. It’s good to have women making decisions that affect all Rwandans.

It can be difficult starting a business with a lack of sufficient capital, and gender norms can require us to prepare meals, raise children, clean the house while men are sometimes found at bars or not helping. But we know not all men fit this stereotype and things are improving in Rwanda.

When prices go up, it becomes more difficult to pay for things like school fees for our children. If we didn’t pay for a school term, our children would have to come home and would fail their classes.

8) What is something you like about Rwandan culture?
We like wearing “ibitenge” or “fabric” because it allows us to wear unique styles and clothing and it allows us to express creativity too. We like our traditional dances, music, our temperate climate, our rich wildlife like our gorillas, and our museums remembering our history and heritage.

9) What is something you don’t like about Rwandan culture?
Sometimes we don’t like the cultural changes that exists in Rwanda. We don’t always like how often we copy things like western-style clothing, but things like learning English and new forms of technology from other cultures is good.

10) What is something you wish more people know about Rwanda?
Rwanda is very organized when it comes to security and we have many beautiful tourism attractions. It is the cleanest and safest country in Africa. With our good highways, we find it easy to travel around the country considering all the mountains. Even our language, Kinyarwanda, is beautiful!

11) What motivates you?
We like being able to work near our family. We don’t need to take a bus or motorcycle taxi to get to and from work. We like coming home every night to our spouses and children. We enjoy cooking delicious food for our family too, they appreciate it and this motivates us to cook and care for them every day.

12) What is your definition of “happiness”?
Happiness is a time with no stress or anger - only smiling because of who we're with and how we're feeling.

Portrait of Michael