Government to roll out digital education in June

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A smart classroom and laboratory at the school provided as part of Rweru model village during Liberation Day Celebrations last year. / Courtesy

Learners across Rwanda will start benefiting from a new system of teaching that emphasises the use of computers and internet to impart knowledge, thanks to a three-year-old project to transform education which the Government of Rwanda has undertaken with Microsoft.

The revelation was made last week by Microsoft’s top official overseeing the group’s work in Africa, Warren La Fleur, during an exclusive interview with The New Times in Kigali.

La Fleur is the regional education industry manager for West, East, Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands on behalf of the multinational technology company.

In 2014, the Ministry of Education entered a partnership with Microsoft Corporation that will see incorporation of information and communication technology into various aspects of the country’s education sector.

The aspects range from helping students access computers and basic Microsoft software installed in them such as Ms Word, Excel, and PowerPoint among others, digitise subject content delivered in schools, and help students get access to internet in their schools.

It is planned under the partnership that by the year 2020 all schools in the country will have two smart classrooms and all subjects will have been digitised but La Fleur said that the first batch of the schools will be having smart classrooms by the end of the current fiscal year.

“I would say that before the end of the current financial year you will have smart classrooms in Rwanda where this new way of teaching with digital identity will certainly be in place,” he said in the interview.

Only 9 per cent or 531 schools in Rwanda currently have access to internet and education minister, Dr Musafiri Papias Malimba, said late last year that the partnership with Microsoft is expected to have reached more than three million students and 61,000 teachers across the country’s 3,500 schools by 2020.

It will lower the cost of delivering the curriculum and learning materials to schools and improve learning outcomes, officials have said.

Nkubito Bakuramutsa, Strategic Advisor on ICT in Education at the Ministry of Education, told The New Times on Friday that the project of digitally transforming education in Rwanda will help students learn how to use computer basic software offered by Microsoft such as Ms Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and others without having to acquire the skills outside their school curriculum.

“The idea is to ensure that Rwandan students become global citizens capable of working locally, on the continent, but also anywhere in the world,” he said.

“It’s a very strategic partnership,” he said of the government’s partnership with Microsoft to transform education in the country and empower students with 21st century skills.

He said that the Rwanda Education Board (REB) is currently establishing 500 smart classrooms across the country and they could be fully connected by August 2017, essentially paving the way for scaling up the programme to other schools.

La Fleur says that once the programme becomes fully operational, it will empower students with digital tools, practices, and technologies so they can actively participate in their own learning at anytime and anywhere.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw