Education is one of the most critical building blocks of any nation. With the growing use of ICT in education, learners, teachers, parents and learning communities in general are provided with new tools by empowering them to create their own learning environment. Technologies do not just help provide access to knowledge, but also enable learners and teachers think critically, create content and develop problem-solving skills as well as to innovate.
The Rwanda Focus talked to the director general of the Rwanda Education Board (REB) Dr John Rutayisire, on the sidelines of the Rwanda International Conference on Technology in Education, who explained the status of ICT in the country's education.
How do you assess ICT's role in Rwanda's education?
Traditionally, people used to go to school and they would learn to read and write and that was all. But now, with the advance of ICT, you find that education is spreading and more people are accessing it. Rwanda's education has moved from reading and writing skills, to researching and connecting to the other parts of the world in terms of education updates, course concerns and related issues. Distance learning is regarded as an important step in education. We have people getting degrees from abroad, while they have been studying from their homes. They learn, get jobs, become competitive and therefore contribute to national development.
How have Rwanda's educational institutions responded to adopting ICT?
Rwanda's education institutions, especially those for higher learning, are adopting ICT faster as they recognize the vital role that it plays.
If you go to Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Tumba College of Technology, Kicukiro College of Technology, Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), the National University of Rwanda (NUR), and many more you will find that our lecturers are no longer using chalk but smart boards. Most of the students (especially in Masters Programs) are able to capture lectures using ICT.
Another example worth noting is the fact that Rwanda's universities are collaborating with some outspoken universities around the world, and students are accessing international professors through ICT. Look at Carnegie Mellon University, a US IT university with a campus in Rwanda. This shows that international education institutes are setting up campuses in Rwanda and students on both sides are getting the same degrees.
It shows the confidence that the international community has for Rwanda as a country that promotes ICT as a potential educational tool.
How are the instructors/teachers prepared in the use of ICT?
Concerning the instructors' preparedness, I think the preparation is about mindsets. Some people would have been used to traditional ways of teaching but now with ICT they have to change. The more ICT is pronounced, the sooner people begin to shed their old practices. Trainings have been organized in schools so as to make teachers able to adopt ICT skills.
Despite the immense potential of technology integrated education many challenges appear in the development, understanding and implementation of the initiative. What are some of the challenges?
To the claims that the few ICT tools available only reach public schools, I can say that the problems we have are mainly financial. Can we afford to have the same equipment, the same qualified teachers in the schools at the same time? The answer is no. You have to start somewhere; you have to look where we are coming from, in the shortest time that we have been here. You cannot build Rome in one day! You cannot have everything everywhere at the same time.
To the fact that some of the kids, who have the chance to access ICT facilities, do not have access to such tools at home, I would advise them to take full advantage of the available technological facilities, at least they can learn as much as they can when they have a chance. Whenever such a child gets access to a computer, he should avoid wasting time by playing useless computer games and visiting useless websites.
These students have to do what is important, exploit the computer for maintaining technological knowledge, consult only relevant sites in the short time they may have, and just be up to date.