The Ministry of education says about 85% of the schools across the country will be connected to internet in the next two years, the model that is expected to revolutionize education into an ICT-based sector.
Currently, internet connectivity stands at 52%.
The ‘ICT-in-Education’ policy was adopted in 2016, in systems dubbed “Smart Classroom”, an initiative aimed at digitizing education from a paper-based system to a digital-driven sector.
The optimism to achieve 85% of internet connectivity by 2024 in schools was announced during the EdTech Monday Rwanda program at KT Radio on 30 August 2021.
EdTech Monday Rwanda is a Mastercard Foundation and ICT Chamber initiative that aims to spark the EdTech Ecosystem in Rwanda.
The initiative brings together EdTech stakeholders, including EdTech entrepreneurs, Education, and technology policymakers, and EdTech consumers to discuss how to tap into the power of technology to increase learning outcomes.
“For people who know history of the country, the efforts to digitize education and other sectors is something worth celebration, there is still a lot to do, but considering the journey since 2000 when technology was made apriority, it’s a good thing to be happy for,” Claudette Irere, State Minister in charge of Information Communication Technology and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) said during the program.
“In 2000 the country had plans or targets to achieve for 2020. In the first five years, the government had to establish policies, for example, creating the ICT ministry, investing in future ICT professionals, establishing universities and among them was the birth of College of Science and Technology, University of Rwanda (KIST), putting up infrastructures, generally, it was a buildup,” Irere said.
She added that to think back, the efforts are evident, like fiber optic establishment for internet connectivity and the government investing heavily to digitize all sectors, including education.
In 2016, the Ministry of Education tasked stakeholders in the education sector to fast-track a new model that would revolutionize education into an ICT-based sector.
Since then, some schools have been given computers and connected to the internet, based on the belief that ICT is a tool which will transform the country’s education system through the digitalization of academic material.
According to Irere, over 4000 primary schools, accounting for 34.8%, have been connected to the internet and have computers, or one laptop per child.
In secondary, 1783 schools, and 365 vocational schools, counting for 52%, also have computers and are connected to the internet.
Among them, Irere said 797 schools have smart classrooms and students have access to quality education.
“Technology in education, however, does not end on accessing computers and the internet, there is the most important thing, which is data accessibility, teachers are supposed to have the skills of using internet to get the stored information to be able to teach. Students should also be able to understand what has been taught,” Irere said.
“Students and teachers should change with technology, which is among the challenges we look forward to solving through continuous teacher’s training and extending smart classrooms to students,” Irere noted.
She pointed out that teachers being the cornerstone of education, they have also been given computers to support technology.
So far, 11,000 laptops have been distributed to public primary and secondary teachers under the “One Laptop per Teacher” initiative that started in April 2021.
To revolutionize the education sector digitally, the government has worked with private sector and non-governmental organizations to conduct programs dubbed Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
Among them is VVOB Rwanda, which conducts a continuous series of training for teachers to be able to teach digitally.
“A teacher can do everything, but with support from leaders. In primary schools, we embark on training math teachers because numerous skills were discovered to be wanting for many students. So, we train school subject leaders and schools-based mentors, they are trained on how to teach digitally,” Chantal Dusabe, Strategic Advisor in School leadership at VVOB said.
“There isn’t doubt, technology makes it easy to learn and to teach. For the school leaders, they are also supposed to know how technology is used in education. Science keeps changing, it means teachers also are required to be flexible,” Dusabe said.
However, she pointed out that for teachers to move with rapidly changing science the government needs to conduct continuous training.
She added that some teachers have resistance to technology, but they adopt after training.
A New device on Market
For students to access online lessons, another ICT company called Solvit Africa has invented a storage device that stores the curricula and can be connected on computers and phones for students to learn without browsing on the internet.
The storage device worth $100 has the capacity to connect 200 students at once.
It is dubbed ‘Soma box.’
“Most of the curriculum is now online, what we did was getting it and storing it in the soma box device. With this device, students can connect without browsing on the internet,” Joseph Semafara, Chief Executive Officer of Solvit Africa said.
“It is a very small device and portable. It can store power for a day. Soma box stores a lot of information for those who prefer to read. With this device, a student can also be relieved from carrying text books because it stores over 1000 textbooks,” Semafara said.
He added that a person in 300 meters can connect on the soma box device.