Rwanda is set to distribute a new model computers that will change the ways in which primary school children learn and practice information communication and technology (ICT) lessons under the one laptop per child (OLPC) program.
This move comes ahead of the review of the four year-ICT in education policy (2016-2019) which is currently being prepared by consultants, in which the country managed since 2008 to distribute OLPC XO laptops.
At least 1,528 new laptops (Positivo ‘Wise’- with a Celeron operation system) will be manufactured locally by Positivo BGH Rwanda- a Brazilian computer manufacturer who has been central in distributing other models to secondary schools.
REB says that the change in the machine type was informed by many reasons including the ended lifespan of the OLPC Xo (3years) and the need to bring the Rwandan children up to speed with the latest technology in ICT equipment.
“We have already ordered for the laptops and they will be distributed starting January 2020.Though the machines will have the same modules (interface) for children lesson, they are very different laptops in terms of processing speed and with less technical issues as in the previous model,” said Aphrodis Kabagamba, a REB Director of Learning Devices and Cloud Solution Technologies Unit.
Despite a few hiccups in the distribution of the OLPC computers with a number of them getting stolen and damaged by children, REB says that the program has been a success and thus improving and reviewing the way children use the machines.
“Now children will no longer take the machines at home, instead they will use them and share with others to avoid the previous issues,” Kabagamba said in an exclusive interview this Friday, November 22.
To partially prevent thefts, Kabagamba revealed that the new model (Positivo ‘Wise’) will be engraved with the Rwanda national emblem; national flag colors on the screen back-side and also marked with tracking number
The OLPC XO, previously known as the ‘$100 Laptop’, ‘Children’s Machines’ is an inexpensive laptop computer intended to be distributed to children in developing countries around the world, to provide them with access to knowledge, and opportunities to “explore, experiment and express themselves
From the launch of the OLPC program in 2008, Rwanda’s ICT in education was at 10%, but this figure has increased to 64% for primary and 53% in secondary education, according to Kabagamba.
To get to this increase government has distributed more than 250,000 OLPCs in 1,624 schools out of the targeted 2,909.
Rwanda education Board says that government will also distribute 4,662 medium size positivo laptops (Model: 14CLE-R Intel Celeron) to secondary students across the country as part of the ongoing ICT agenda of making computers a general basic tool in education.
This will add on the 74,537 positivo laptops distributed in 749 secondary schools plus 1,412 projectors in 739 secondary schools, with 4G internet in 720 schools out of the 1414 secondary schools in Rwanda.
In 2016 Rwanda initiated an ICT policy, which is just months away from expiring, however the policy has seen establishment of smart classroom across, plus training of teachers in ICT skills improving the uptake of ICT in education from 5% to an average of 53%.
According to REB, one of the programs that have propelled this performance is the Smart Classroom program (for secondary schools) which was officially launched in 2016.
Under the $5million, sponsored by Korean International Cooperation Agency (Koica), Rwanda government planned to distribute 100 computers in each of the 1,500 schools targeted and equipped them with computers connected to the internet with a screen projector, and provide capacity building for teachers among others.
So far, there are 60 smart classroom centers, rehabilitated and furnished with a total of 3000 computers across the country, with each center having 50 computers.
Currently, in capacity building 30 of the 180 master secondary school teacher trainers needed are undergoing training in Kigali, as part of the targeted 24,000 teachers to be trained and certified from this year 2019-2021 under the Capacity Development for ICT in Education (CADIE) project.
So far REB and other partners have trained 24,385 teachers both in primary and secondary since 2014.
The ICT in education program has also attracted partnerships with African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, AIMS Rwanda which has also provided 14 state of the art smart classrooms in 14 districts- with each classroom containing 50 computers and one smart projector per classroom.
“The World Bank has also initiated a new program which will focus on training 3,000 teachers in ICT skills specifically for nursery and primary schools,” Kabagamba said.
While there is a lot of investment in the ICT in education, the rolling out and dissemination of Smart Classrooms has met a challenge of funding to have the desired model of classrooms, and access to infrastructure especially electricity.
REB says that except the two classrooms at St. Andre and 14 others funded by AIMS in 14 districts, the rest of the smart classes are small and congested.
The desired classroom, according to REB is one that is spacey furnished for 50 computers, a smart screen projector for video conferencing, suitable ceilings, light and sound proof walls, with comfortable tables and chairs for ICT innovation and learning.
This kind of class, with full equipment, can cost about Rwf42 million. REB said this is a lot of money to inject in 60 centers and needed funding from within.
While this challenge is yet to be tabled, some former secondary school students have made the best out of what is available.
Samson Ndatimana and Xavier Nyandwi, both studying at College of Medicine and Health Sciences testify that access to computers changed the notion of the world and increased research in skills outside the class setting.
As a student at Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare Indatwa n’inkesha (in Huye district) Ndatimana says he used the ICT labs (Smart class) to do research on subjects but use publisher and power point programs which later gave him a temporary job after graduation.
“After graduating, I got a job as a teacher and was able to make school reports, which saved the school from spending on designs,” Ndatimana said.
Today Ndatimana doesn’t only study but has used the available 4G internet at the university to become an agent for a Chinese company- Sarkar Edu-Care- which offers scholarships for Rwandan students.
“When I am bored I use my orientation in ICT skills to search for opportunities on the web. That is how I landed on this job- of which I have managed to connect three Rwandan students, earning $100 on each,” Ndatimana said.
The Chinese embassy in Rwanda is discussing with the ministry of finance possibilities of financing the ICT in education program with a tune of $30million, according to Hudson Wang, the Chinese embassy Economic and Commercial Counselor to Rwanda.