SUBSTANTIAL investments in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities like computers for use in primary and secondary schools is seen as a fundamental step in enhancing the quality of education that would ultimately be reflected in the improved livelihood of its people.
For example, with a one laptop per child programme, Rwanda has moved ahead of most East African Countries to putting clear direction towards transformation of its people into an ICT society. However, Tanzania has been making concerted efforts to engage both state and non state organs particularly private sector in attracting large investments in the ICT industry due to its vital contributions to attaining real development.
Responding to the government call, the Microsoft British Council (MBC), which is non government organization, provided ICT facilities to primary and secondary schools in Kilimanjaro Region with a goal of enhancing learning of science subjects. The MBC through a project dubbed 'Badiliko' has so far managed to distribute 300 computers worth 450m/- to several primary and secondary schools in Tanzania.
The organization last week provided 60 computers worth 90m/- to three primary and secondary schools in Kilimanjaro Region including Mdawi Primary School located in Moshi Rural District, JK Nyerere Secondary School in Moshi Urban District and Mrike Secondary School in Rombo District. Speaking at the handing over ceremony of 60 computers at Mdawi Primary School, the organization's manager, Ms Lilian Msuya, said the project aimed at helping students and teachers to have computers as the necessary teaching aids in order to improve the quality of education.
ICT in the education system is mainly used for skills training and even with very few primary schools equipped, a curriculum has been developed for ICT in primary and pre-primary education, dubbed in Kiswahili as Teknolojia ya Habari na Mawasiliano (TEHAMA). However, this ICT as a subject is only taught in a few schools in the urban areas and near the district headquarters where institutions have access to electricity.
Also lack of coordination of ICT in education activities, limited information sharing, inadequate skills for integration of IT in learning machines, ineffective organizational structures at the various management levels to accommodate it in teaching and learning act has been cited as obstacle to the industry growth. Apart from handing over the computers, Ms Msuya said the organization also inaugurated a special learning centre at Mdawi area for science teachers to enhance their teaching skills.
"The project is implemented in six countries including Tanzania where more than 300 computers have been distributed to various schools," she said. She said the BADILIKO project implemented in partnership between British Council and Microsoft Partners Learning, aimed at reaching more than 20,000 heads of schools and 100,000 teachers by 2014. The substantial investments in the ICT were crucial not only for enhancing healthy competitions geared at promoting quality of education but more importantly to bring the nation into the middle income by 2025.
The Tanzania Development Vision 2025 envisages a nation imbued with five main attributes including high quality livelihood; peace, stability and unity; good governance; a well educated and learning society; and a strong and competitive economy capable of producing sustainable growth and shared benefits.
ICT, if appropriately used can assist in addressing the key educational challenges, like, elearning and mobile-learning technologies and alternative delivery systems for access; rich and interactive digital content to improve quality; and assistive technologies to contribute to equity. It is one of the sectors which offer huge potential for creating massive employment, a necessary element in the government efforts to alleviate abject poverty in the country.
ICT has impacted the way business is conducted, facilitated learning and knowledge sharing, generated global information flows, empowered citizens and communities in ways that have redefined governance, and have created significant wealth and economic growth resulting in a global information society.
The government has underscored the need to transform the country's economy into one with higher income and quality growth over the next decade with knowledge and innovation. The government is calling upon the private sector to augment investments in the ICT sector because it is actively contributing to various achievements particularly in supporting facilities, training centres and sales outlets.
These efforts have enabled government departments, institutions of learning, Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs), as well as other entrepreneurs; acquire ICT solutions that address their individual problems most appropriately. Speaking earlier, the Kilimanjaro Region Education Officer, Ms Ruth Malisa, expressed gratitude to the organization for the aid with a call to all teachers whose schools received the computers and the special learning centre to sharpen their skills in order to improve the quality of education.
Also she warned the project beneficiaries to use the computers for learning purposes and avoid other unethical affairs like watching phonograph movies. To start with, the project will benefit 40 teachers in Mdawi suburb and the surrounding areas. Apart from Kilimanjaro Region, the project is also implemented in Iringa, Mbeya, Arusha, and Ruvuma Regions. ICT has huge potentials in providing quality services in areas such as education, health, commerce and public administration.
Statistics show that the sector is growing at between 15 and 20 per cent annually which is the highest in the East African Community (EAC) region. It is argued that the agency is vital in protecting the interest of stakeholders such as consumers, providers and the government who are increasingly embracing services like e-learning, tele-medicine and e-commerce.
However, dangers posed by the digital divide and the risk of being excluded further from the knowledge economy and social development caused by development disparities between rural and urban areas need swift measures to ensure that the benefits brought by ICT reach all.
Apart from pledging to improve investment climate for the private sector, the government has been urging instructors in higher learning institutions to acquire the ICT knowledge to both enhance the quality of learning process to the students but also cope with the global digital change.
In a nutshell, ICT has remained to be vital instrument in protecting the interests of various stakeholders such as consumers, service providers and the government, who have now embraced e-learning, tele-medicine and e-commerce.