6 March 2012

Rwanda: Project to Distribute 100,000 More Laptops

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

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is set to receive 100,000 more laptops in a bid to ensure that all 416 administrative sectors in the country have an OLPC-enabled school.

The project that was launched in 2008 by President Paul Kagame has seen about 80,000 laptops distributed in 145 schools countrywide.

"We will receive an additional 100,000 laptops in May 2012," Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the OLPC Coordinator in the Ministry of Education told The New Times in an interview yesterday.

He explained that the first phase that covered five schools per district was soon coming to an end.

"We are targeting to complete the first phase by the end of March. Now that all districts are covered, we are moving to sectors. We want to ensure that all 416 sectors countrywide have an OLPC enabled school," he asserted.

Commenting on the rollout of electricity in schools where there is no power, Bakuramutsa said they had an approach that varied depending on the location of the school.

"For schools that are far from the grid, we are working closely with the project in charge of electricity rollout in the Ministry of Infrastructure to install solar energy. Closer to the grid, we are working with district officers and Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) to complete the connection of schools to the national grid," he explained.

"This is an ongoing process, but for the current phase, we should have all selected OLPC schools connected to power by June 2012. The sector level deployment will see schools connected faster given the experience we developed in the first phase.

Nkubito pointed out that the use of laptops on a daily basis in all schools was going to drastically increase with the current deployment of servers in schools. They will enable all lessons to be covered through digital courses.

OLPC Project has also trained 1,500 teachers and head of schools and is targeting a second round of training which will cover another 1,200.

Whereas government-supported schools are given the custom-made computers free of charge, there is also another arrangement where private schools buy them at a subsidised price of $200 (approx. 120,000).

Speaking to The New Times, Jeanne d'Arc Twambajemariya, the Director of Etoile Rubengera in Karongi District, Western Province, said OLPC had enabled students to learn with ease.

"Our school is not government owned and thus not among the beneficiaries. In partnership with parents, we have purchased 31 laptops," she said.

"The laptops have improved our pupils' knowledge in the use of ICT tools, but they are very few compared to the number of children we have. We have written to the OLPC project requesting them to assist us with more laptops if possible."

According to Theogene Sibomana, the Director of Camp Kigali School, children have learnt how to use various applications using laptops.

"They are interested in the use of laptops and this has led us to double the time kids spend on them in school," he noted.

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