Education with IT: Of course we will get there

One laptop per child Kagugu Primary School, Kigali

Kigali day 3: When the project labour began for the laying of the optic fibre cables many people wondered why prioritize this. In a country where the poverty level in 2005 was 56,7% and with a and low electricity penetration of only 9% how could it make any sense to start wiring up the country?

ICT plays a huge part in Rwanda’s Vision 2020. Rwanda wants to groom itself into a regional ICT hub, and ICT in education is in particular in focus.

The last five years efforts have been put into building the infrastructure. A 2500 km high-speed fiber optic cable has reached all districts. In principleal, it is ready to connect public offices, businesses, homes and schools to the Internet. The current reality though, is that the iInternet penetration is at 3% and the lack of energy, hardware and skills are major challenges to overcome before the country’s public and private schools are connected. Yet, Minister of State Minister of State for Education Dr. Mathias Harebamungu is optimistic.

Of course we will get there. It’s a matter of effort and time, he says.

It is not hard to believe him. The figures he rolls of his fingertips illustrating achievements in the education sector during the past 17 years are impressive.

In 1994 pre-primary enrolment was at 100 pupils, today it is 98.000. Primary school enrolment in 1994 was 600.000, today its 2.000.400 meaning that 94% of all primary children are attending school. Secondary school enrolment in 1994 was 50.000 pupils, today it stands at 450.000.

At the higher learning level the achievements are equally striking.  In 1994 there were 3000 graduates in the whole country. Now, more than 12,000 students are graduating every year.

In 2009 Rwanda embarked on a 9 year universal education programme – the next step is a 12 year programme with a focus on vocational skills using Singapore’s flexible model for higher learning.

We can’t all hold a pP.hds. Someone has to have the skills to make the bricks, lay the foundations, build the houses, and the like, says Mathias Harebamungu.

ICT though is for everyone and despite the obvious challenges, IT–learning have begun at primary level. It started in 2008 under the One Laptop per child program.

I go to one of the pilot schools, Kagugu Primary School in a suburb of Kigali city. Turagire Alphonsine, a P5 pupil shows how she uses her laptop to write, take photos, draw, make simple graphics and find facts for geography lessons from a pre-installed programme.

Even though Kagugu PS is in Kigali city, it too faces challenges with electricity black-outs. When I first arrived I find there is a power cut and the kids can only use the laptops that still have running batteries. But all of a sudden the electricity is back. The pupils shout out loud and run to a cupboard in the back of the classroom. They return to their desks with green cables for the laptops and extension cables for the sockets. They get online. Wireless. In this school almost each all the students have a laptop (3020 laptops and 3242 students, P1 students share laptops). In the next phase of the project P4-P5 pupils will share laptops; it is’s simply too costly to provide laptops for all 2 million plus primary school children in the country.

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