École Ruban Vert, a unique concept in Africa offering excellence in education – by Anne Marie Jobin
Economie Gabon +: Mr McFaul, schools usually bear the name of a famous person Your school is called “Green belt or Green ribbon. Where does the name come from?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL : I am sure that like all our visitors who enter the campus, you were impressed by the oasis of green which surrounds us like a ribbon. On the campus we have hundreds of species of Gabonese flora and a study of them and how to protect our environment and respect the ecosystem is an integral part of our learning programme for all members of our community.
Economie Gabon +: Is this a unique concept or one you have borrowed or replicated from elsewhere? Where does the idea originate?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL: Our driving force is excellence – excellence in our academic work, excellence in relations with one another and respect for values. To reach our goal, I believe it is important to combine our amazing environment with best educational practice so as to be in line with international standards. Ruban Vert is one of the few schools in sub-Saharan Africa to adopt the Montessori method of instruction for its youngest children, which is a system centred on following the natural rhythm and development of the child. We also offer a truly bilingual experience in both French and English, using programmes that unite a solid intellectual training with personal and social development, leading to international qualifications such as The International Baccalaureate Diploma which is recognised and held in high regard in over 140 countries, and allows students to access the top universities across the world.
We have opted for a school where nature, technology, sciences, languages, art and sports all go hand in hand… in short a school that combines knowledge, experience, creativity to allow each child to face with confidence, pride and assurance the challenges of tomorrow’s world.
Economie Gabon +: Do you receive any state funding or are you a private school?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL: Ecole Ruban Vert is a private venture, the result of the desire of a group of visionary men and women to see quality education driving development, especially in Africa where future generations can compete in a highly connected world.
Economie Gabon +: How many pupils are enrolled? Has the number grown since the school started?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL: When the school first opened its doors in October 2013 there were 30 pupils, Today we have just over 220. I think that is a great achievement. You need to understand that in French-speaking world, international education is not well-known and people are always wary of what they do not know. We are building a reputation over time and our best advocates are our students and their parents.
Economie Gabon +: Who make up your teaching staff? How do you recruit them? What are you looking for in your staff? How many nationalities do they represent?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL: We are an international school and the school community of staff, students and parents reflects this cosmopolitan idea. Alongside Gabonese teachers we have more than 15 other nationalities with staff coming from every continent. This diversity enables our students to broaden their horizons and to learn to appreciate their neighbour. Recruitment of staff is based on competence. For our school to be excellent, we need well-trained, experienced and highly-motivated people who share our vision and our values.
Economie Gabon +: How many students do you have per class? What is the ratio of boys to girls in each class? What is the ratio of local children to international pupils? What are your results like at BAC level? From what age do you accept pupils?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL: The average class size is about 15. The maximum is 20 and we have classes that are smaller depending on the subject. I don’t think that the question about parity is applicable here. The school is open to boys and girls from age 3 and above. Gabonese pupils represent just over 40%. We do not discriminate – except by ability. The IB International Baccalaureate is very demanding and so pupils need to be motivated and apply themselves – hence the importance of tests and interviews prior to admission.
Regarding examination results, as we have only been in existence for four years we have just had our first cohort of IGCSE students who passed with 100% success. Those scoring top grades put us on a par with other top international schools. Our first IB DP cohorts of students take their exams in 2018 but currently all augurs well.
Economie Gabon +: Tell us a bit about what you do and your processes? What are the teaching times? What subjects are offered?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL: As a school we don’t really think in terms of ‘process’. School opens at 7h30. Lessons start at 8h and end at 15h30. Then there are extra-curricular activities until 16h30. The pupils chose form a range of over 50 different activities that allow them to develop their (sometimes unrecognised) potential. We have lots of sports equipment and offer amongst a huge range of options dance, la gymnastics, handball, basketball, football, tennis. Reading is strongly encouraged and some of our students prefer to explore the treasures of the library, while others play a musical instrument of the many available, or simply enjoy the green space.
Economie Gabon +: Is your school reserved for an elite and/or expats. Are there scholarships available?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL: As already mentioned, discrimination goes against our values. Our school is open to all who want to follow the international programme of offer. Of course such a programme comes at a cost but every year we offer full or partial scholarships, depending on parents ability to pay, to allow able, but socially disadvantaged children to study at ERV. At present we have 20% of our students who are on the scholarship programme. Equality of opportunity based on merit is what we believe in!
Economie Gabon +: Do you have something new each year? If so, what is happening 2017/2018?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL: We try to help our students develop their skills and prepare them for the world of work and so we are always looking at ways to move to the next level. This academic year sees the introduction of robotics, an area which is mushrooming in all sectors – and in schools it is especially important to ensure our pupils are not left on the margins of technology. Training them in programming helps them to enjoy learning and working as a team.
Economie Gabon +: What are you main goals and what is the time-scale?
Headmaster of Ecole Ruban Vert, M. Harry H McFAUL: Our short-term goal is to consolidate our educational system through partnerships and exchange programmes with schools who share our goals and values, as we continue our pursuit of excellence. Secondly, we want to make our education and facilities available to a larger number of young people, in the long term. In the interim we would like to make ERV a benchmark for schools in Africa with a view to opening other campuses like this across the continent, thus allowing African young people to compete on the world stage as equals.