8 September 2011

Rwanda: Children Speak Out On OLPC Program

Photo: New Times
Primary school children using laptops. Over 200,000 units will have been distributed by the end of the year.

Gasabo — Three years after President Paul Kagame launched the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program, about 65,000 computers have since been distributed to some 128 primary schools countrywide.

Among the beneficiaries is Ecole Primaire d'Application de Kimihurura (EPAK), in Gasabo District of Kigali.

Pupils at the school, who spoke to The New Times, said the laptops play a big role towards improving their knowledge in the use of ICT tools.

"We have learnt how to use various applications, for example opening an e-mail address and doing research using the internet," said Jean Luc Nsabimana, a Primary Six pupil.

He added that the use of the laptop has enabled him to access digital content in various subject areas including Mathematics, Science, English and Social Studies.

"We are enjoying these laptops and this has encouraged us to effectively participate in the learning process," Nsabimana noted.

He mentioned that before the program was rolled out in his school, he could barely switch on a computer, adding that he is now able to use computers with ease.

Jean Marie Mubera, a primary four pupil from the same school said that the laptops have helped him to apply what he learns in school in a more practical way.

"I can now browse the internet, activate my e-mail address and look for more information regarding the subjects we study for example mathematics, social studies and English," he said.

Regina Agabe, another pupil from primary five stated that she uses the laptop to read stories on the internet which has enhanced her English language speaking and writing skills.

"I am so excited to use these laptops because they motivate me while studying lessons," she noted.

Delphine Umuhoza, the teacher in charge of the laptop program at EPAK said that pupils now understand their lessons better because they conduct their own research any time on the laptops.

Asked if the pupils use the computers to browse pornographic internet sites, she said they are yet to experience such a scenario.

Umuhoza emphasised that pupils do not know how to browse explicit content because they are limited by their teachers to know anything else apart from what they learn within the classroom setting

"Laptops play an integral role in their own learning process by becoming active learners and actually playing a significant role in easing our work," she added.

A parent at the school, Charlotte Nyirabizimana whose childen have benefitted from the program, explained that the computers have enabled her child to learn basic skills in ICT.

"Children learn best by their own discovery, but they need guidance on what to explore and discover, and an opportunity to share the process with others," she underscored.

"As a parent, I am very grateful to the government for coming up with the initiative that has taught our children the most essential technology in the world today."

The government targets to deploy 160,000 laptops by June 2012 as part of the government's effort to transform the country's economy into a knowledge-based one.

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