24 July 2012

Rwanda: Nurturing a Tech Savvy Generation

A pupil at Groupe Scolaire Kicukiro who benefited from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, has invented an animation software which can be activated on a mobile phone and be used as a mobile phone game.

Through the skills and knowledge I have gained from my laptop, I have developed a software which can be activated on a mobile phone and be used as a game

In an exclusive interview with The New Times at the school, Yves Tumushimishe, a primary six pupil said through the skills he has acquired, he has been able to develop the mobile phone software through the use of scratch programme.

Scratch is a highly engaging programming system that allows young students to create animated stories, games, interactive art, and simulations. Students use a drag and drop interface of "code blocks" to create sound, movement and actions to objects known as sprites.

Tumushimishe says before getting a laptop under the OLPC programme, he did not even know how to write a single word on a computer.

"But now through the skills and knowledge I have gained from my laptop, I have developed a software which can be activated on a mobile phone and be used as a game."

He says he is looking forward to develop more software and to teach his classmates how they can develop their own and how to become more creative and innovative in ICT.

"I come from a poor family and I did not have hope of ever owning a laptop. I thank the government for setting up OLPC which has totally changed my life. I plan to study computer science at the university because I want to contribute a lot to the national development in terms of ICT which I believe will spur development of our country not only in the region but internationally," Tumushimishe said.

Donatha Mutoni, also a student in primary six at Groupe Scolaire Kicukiro, said: "I got a Laptop under the OLPC programme when I could not even afford to type a word on the computer, but now I have learnt to use many programmes and I am looking forward to learning more".

She added that they have been taught how to repair computers and to assemble them, saying that this will help them to become IT engineers in the future.

Arsene Twizeyimana, a computer teacher at the school said that the OLPC programme has so far distributed over 900 laptops at his school to students from Primary four to Primary six.

"According to my analysis the OLPC will play a key role in the government vision of helping Rwanda to become a middle-income country by 2020 but I encourage the Ministry of education and other stakeholders to always make supervision on the progress so made by schools regarding this programme because this will help it to be done in a more effective manner" Twizeyimana.

Jean Paul Hitimana, in charge of Training and Awareness at OLPC, said his institution has trained over 2000 teachers in various computer skills.

The project was launched in 2008 by President Paul Kagame, and according to Hitimana, they have finished distributing about 120,000 laptops to 220 schools across the country adding that the distribution was continuing.

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