Lessons Learned from Teaching English in Rwanda

February 19, 2010

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For a nation torn apart by genocide in 1994, Rwanda does pretty well. For the last several years, the East African nation's economy has grown annually by roughly eight percent. The streets of capital city Kigali look clean and orderly.

When University of Chicago student Ioana Tchoukleva arrived in Rwanda last year, she too saw a largely unheralded African success story. She went to Kigali to teach English to students at a learning center. Over the course of her three month stint, her perception of Rwanda's progress changed. Her students—mostly orphans from the genocide—wore their emotional scars just below the surface. And, after trying to conduct interviews with regular folks on the streets of Kigali, she realized economic progress came at the expense of civil liberties.