Karen Allen

I fought South Shields at the May 2010 General Election for the Conservatives, gaining a 6.4% swing which was a 4% vote increase. The Conservatives polled 7,886 up from 5,207 in 2005. I was born in the North East and grew up in South Shields. I currently live in London and am employed as a Director at Lloyd's Broker Howden International.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back from Rwanda!


Although I had worked as a TEFL (teaching English as a Foreign Language) each before - it was some years ago now and the location was very different (Moscow in 1997). I think it would have been very difficult to prepare for my assignment in Africa, but the significance of the contribution Project Umubano - Umubano' is the Kinyarwandan word for friendship and cooperation -
is making to developing Rwanda should not be underestimated. Incidentally the Conservatives are the only political party to be involved with an international social action project.

The picture shows some of the 40 Rwandan Primary School teacher who were in my class. Rwanda has applied to join the 53-member English-speaking Commonwealth with strong support from the UK and African countries and to that aim, earlier this year President Paul Kagame ruled that all lessons in school would be taught in English. English would replace French as the official language. Besides cementing the separation from France, Kagame believes Commonwealth membership will offer economic, cultural and political benefits. The CHRI gives Rwanda's government credit for spending on health and education over the past 15 years. Half the legislature is female – the highest rate in the world – corruption is low, and the work ethic of government officials is very high.

My pupils had widely varying levels of English, but all were keen to learn more about the teaching methods in English school, as the Rwandan education system has been traditionally based on rote. My pupils were delightful and enthusiastic. I really found the Rwandans amazing people, they show such great strength and determination which has been a testament to their break away from their difficult past.

It was a great honour that President Paul Kagame met with MPs and Parliamentary Candidates on the Project. He expressed his gratitude for the on going support the Conservative Party has shown to Project Umubano. I truly wish Rwanda every success in its application to join the Commonwealth and hope very much to return to Rwanda one day to see the products of the continued growth and development which is evidently underway under the direction of President Kagame. I learned a great deal about International Development from both being in Rwanda and having the opportunity to talk to Shadow Cabinet Minister, Andrew Mitchell.