Rwanda e-schools initiative on showcase at ICT ministerial talks

By Kennedy Abwao 

Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire (PANA): The successful roll-out of the one laptop per child in Rwanda, a major initiative to boost skills development in the East African country, is a major topic of discussion at a ministerial conference on the roll-out of the Information and Technology (ICT) in education in Africa.

Education experts involved in designing policies to enable governments adopt the best ICT practices remained upbeat on Tuesday, noting that the successful uptake of the electronic schools in Rwanda has demonstrated the best case scenario of how to use the research to achieve quality in education.

“We have been working with governments in Africa on how to use technology to improve the quality of learning,” said Senthil Kumar, Programme Manager at the Global E-Schools and Communities Initiative (GESCI), an international non-governmental agency founded by the UN ICT task-force.

“We have also been building leadership capacity in strategic planning, especially for the education sector in order to achieve policy coherence in building the knowledge society,” Kumar told PANA in an interview, ahead of a ministerial conference here on how to improve e-schools planning in Africa.

Rwanda, an African country with no known minerals, has caught global attention for its rapid implementation of initiatives to improve school learning initiatives through ICT use.

Kumar said the case of Rwanda is unique because of the country’s successful implementation of the one-laptop per child, which has been rolled out, leading to 216,000 laptops distributed so far.

Rwandan government audit on the implementation of the one laptop per child project said at least 407 schools were reached by early 2014 out of the 2,334 schools targeted for distribution. The government targeted the loading of e-learning software into the laptops to bolster electronic learning in schools.

GESCI, one of the major partners supporting the implementation of e-school learning initiatives in 16 African countries currently, said focused deployment of the projects such as the one laptop per child in Rwanda, is critical to steps by African countries to achieve the “knowledge society” status.

Citing the case of countries like India, which has developed an ICT industry, generating global software sales in excess of US $100 billion a year, Kumar said leadership training for senior government executives was important to the efforts to develop African countries into exporters of human capital.

“The governments have to work to provide an environment to attract the international companies to invest in these sectors. For this to happen, they must provide an enabling investment climate based on what suits the country. Training of middle-level to high ranking officers is a critical step,” Kumar said.

The second ministerial forum on ICT use in educational institutions, holding 8-9 June in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, has drawn experts from the field of education and international development.

Kumar said the forum is critical in building the right environment to engage government officials to discuss issues affecting the infrastructure investments in schools—such as electricity, quality classrooms and properly equipped teaching laboratories and computer labs.

“There is no point in pushing for schools without proper infrastructure. The proper infrastructure in schools should be considered a priority. This is what we want governments to consider,” Kumar said.

During the two-day ministerial forum, GESCI, currently headquartered in Nairobi, is pushing governments to pay close attention to their ranking on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Information and Knowledge index, which measures a country’s use of ICT tools to improve lifestyles.

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