1 July 2015

Ethiopia: ICT for Enhancing Quality Primary Education - the Case of Dinke Primary School

Dinke Primary School is equipped with a Solar Powered Internet

No one can deny the impact that technology continues to have on almost every aspect of our daily lives, nor the speed with which new developments are adopted by us.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can contribute to universal access and equity in education, the delivery of quality learning and teaching, teachers' professional development and more efficient education management, governance and administration.

The government has made the development of ICT one of its strategic priorities. One of the guiding principles of the ICT policy is the government shall actively collaborate with the private sector, civil society organizations and communities to promote and encourage the use of ICT towards transforming Ethiopia to a knowledge and information age.

Thus, Dinke Primary School in Kuche Woreda, Gamo Gofa Zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities and People State (SNNPS) is equipped with a Solar Powered Internet Schools (SPIS) the first ever of its kind to be implemented in Ethiopia that have a vital role in enhancing the quality of primary education in the state as well as provide the community with access to advanced information and communication technologies and education services.

Plan-International Ethiopia as part of its educational project partnered with Samsung to bring the over three million birr SPIS to the woreda that is expected to benefit an estimated 4,000 students and teachers of Dinke Primary School and adjacent satellite schools.

The SPIS is a 12 meter shipping container that has been customized into a classroom setting. It is equipped with 24 student Samsung e-notebooks, 24 sitting spaces, one teacher laptop that is designed to monitor all the other laptops, a multi-purpose Samsung printer, a server, air conditioning, Internet access, a 65 -inch large - format display screen e-board, and solar panels. The class room's computer server is loaded with different educational contents that allows facilitators to teach any subject or grade.

All the equipment is customized for use in a solar-powered environment. This is important as the school lacks access to reliable energy sources.

Use of solar power ensures that the facility runs efficiently and consistently at no extra cost to the school. While, the e-board is used to provide an interactive learning and teaching experience for the teachers and the students. It can access the Internet and is connected to the computers in the facility.

The facility will be used to supplement regular classroom lessons for mainly mainly for students in grades 5 up to 8.

"Students use the lab under the supervision of the teacher only. Students can use the devices independently, but with teacher supervision, to conduct online research or play installed games," said the School Deputy Director Tedla Tamirat.

Biruk Masebo, 12, is a 7th grader at the school. According to him, the SPIS will introduce him to the technology world also help him become a well equipped student. "I never touch any laptop or computer. I can't wait for the school to start."

Similarly, Lamrot Ambaw also 12 and a 6th grader, said that "I want to help elders and communities with my education. The school will help me become a doctor."

Zone Education Bureau Head Eysias Endrias commended the support saying that partners such as Plan-International are supporting government efforts to access children the right education at the right age.

"The first ever solar Internet school will trigger the community to send its children to school. Thus, teachers must ready themselves to equip their students with latest knowledge. "I hope the SPIS will help the school administration to enhance the quality of education. edge using the facility."

On one hand, this is good news for students, they must utilize the access to maximize their education to be competitive in their future endeavours while using the utmost care to protect the SPIS and machinery, he added.

The programme gives students in the remote parts of the country access to ICT using solar power, said Teferi Abate, Zone Administrative Deputy Head.

This project is key in improving the quality education as well as build on our future generation ICT capacity. "Sustainability is central to ensure development, thus proper use and protection of the this valuable resource is mandatory for all concerned bodies including the community."

"I hope the SPIS will help the school administration to enhance the quality of education" said Manjo Kumar, Plan-International Ethiopia Country Director.

All stakeholders participated in the realization of this project. "Plan and Samsung will mentor trainers to ensure that they are fully equipped to deal with the various functionality of the SPIS and to have a better understand of coaching so that they can motivate their learners to achieve great results as well as be able to train other teachers in the school on how to operate the equipment and conduct lessons using the facility, he added.

Tadewos Awol, Samsung Country Manager on the occasion said that, this Internet school will enhance students learning capacity as well as help them connect with the rest of the world, adding, "while this partnership is a testimony that collaboration and cooperation can bring viable results."

Many private and public secondary schools in the country now began to have ICT programmes which focus on "Learning to learn" and "Enquiry based learning" which move learning away from simple subject knowledge to higher level thinking skills in all subjects.

There is a need for change. Ethiopia understood this great opportunity to really exploit the benefits that can be gained from ICT and technology across the whole educational operations system. Schools who understand what can be achieved when technology is truly embraced and becomes embedded. Many countries in the world are introducing similar developments.

Schools that are confident with technology are moving away from knowledge based curricula. ICT is key to delivering what society and business want to see from our education system in the 21st century. It is not about excessive concentration on ICT skills per se, but allowing those skills to support the delivery of a much wider and more relevant curriculum.

However, the Region as well as the country have a long way to go in order to move the whole sector towards the same high levels of benefit and outcome.

There is still a culture of change that needs to be addressed and a workforce that needs to be supported. We must be careful not to throw away the heritage we have, but we must drive forwards blending the new opportunities in the context of the successes of the past.


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