Kinyarwanda Speakers Welcomed

Muraho! (Hi!) and Tugende! (Let’s go!) are two words Webster project staff and Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) faculty and staff learned last Friday, October 17th, at a parent meeting for speakers of Kinyarwanda – the newest language group to enroll in KCPS this year. That morning, six families with four to seven children each arrived at East High School and toured the school, stopping at a clothing closet, classrooms, cafeteria, and gym. Then the families introduced themselves with the help of a Jewish Vocational Service interpreter, who used Kinyarwanda and Swahili to accommodate parents who spoke both languages.


Kinyarwanda-speaking families from Congo, Zambia, and Tanzania stop in the East High School library on a school tour at the parent meeting last Friday.

During introductions, parents shared about their country of origin and other places they have lived between there and the U.S. Most are originally from Congo and moved to a refugee camp in Rwanda called Byumba. Others lived in Zambia or Tanzania before arriving in the U.S.


JVS interpreter Maombi Samuel addresses families in Kinyarwanda and Swahili.

New Americans teachers led by Zoe Kinney, a New Americans teacher and ESL Resource Teacher, led a short presentation on good and bad behavior, dressing for Kansas City weather, elementary and high school schedules, hygiene, and graduation requirements.


KCPS New Americans teacher and ESL Resource Teacher Zoe Kinney planned the agenda and led the meeting.

During another period of sharing at the end, parents voiced some questions and concerns. Having recently arrived from refugee camps, some shared they feel unprepared to help their children use computers loaned by the district. While teachers and parents want students to use the computers for more than games, parents are currently unable to guide their children toward more constructive purposes. Families who lacked access to the internet were also unable to use technology to its fullest potential.

Parents shared they want to make sure their children complete their homework, but they often don’t know they have homework or are not aware where to find it. Some of the teachers talked about the homework folders their children bring home every night. Parents also asked for information on discipline, and teachers requested their support honoring consequences established by the schools. Teachers responded to a report of a bullying incident by asking parents to make sure the teachers are aware when their children are bullied. Other concerns included being able to catch the school bus in recent heavy fall rain.


Parents talk about their background, technology, bullying, and bussing, among other things.


A daughter and mother whose first language is Swahili.

KCPS Language Services and East High School faculty and staff had collected shoes, clothes, and household items that families took home after the event. Newcomers still need uniforms, shoes, socks, detergent, deodorant, winter clothes, umbrellas, and locks for their lockers.

As of this post, KCPS did not have a speaker of Kinyarwanda on staff. You can enlist the help of an interpreter by contacting Language Services or JVS’ Kris Collins at As of this post, a face-to-face interpreter from JVS requires a minimum of 2 hours @ $45/hour plus mileage.  Phone calls can also be arranged, as well as phone messaging for nominal fees.


East High School ESL Teacher Patrick Brier talks to students in his classroom during the tour.


Attendees tour through a gym.

The normal word order in Kinyarwanda is Subject-Verb-Object. Read more here, or watch Swahili dialogues videotaped in Kenya and Tanzania.


To connect with other KCPS educators interested in combining effort and funding to host a future ELL parent meeting or ELL parent conference, please contact Zoe Kinney at

Kinyarwanda Phrases

MuRAho – Hello!

TuGENde – Let’s go!

MeedeeWELL – I don’t know.

ChiCHEKa – Be quiet.

KweeCHARa – Sit down.

RoKOHze – Thank you.

NibYEHza – good

NiBEEbee – bad

MooROOmva – Do you understand?

Posted in Community Resources, Culture

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